Remarks at a Luncheon in Honor of President of Brazil Dilma Rousseff

Antony J. Blinken
Deputy Secretary of State
Washington, DC
June 30, 2015

DEPUTY SECRETARY BLINKEN: (In progress) our nation’s first diplomat and one of the most brilliant scientific and literary minds in American history. He charted the Gulf Stream, he pioneered the study of electricity, he authored our first diplomatic treaty, and he helped forge a new ethos of self-government that shaped our emerging nation.

Franklin also really liked to have a very good time. And he would have lived for Carnival. In 1763, he created a college student’s dream: a mixed cocktail that could be stored indefinitely at room temperature. Which is all to say that while he never would’ve been confirmed by the United States Senate – (laughter) – he would have greatly approved of long lunches in honor of very good friends in the middle of the day.

So it’s a great pleasure to welcome all of you here today as one of our most important partners and closest friends (inaudible). In a few days, the United States will celebrate our own independence day and reflect on a journey that is similar, in many ways, to the one charted by Brazil. Rich in diversity, resolute in spirit, Brazil and the United States forged nations that we united not by a single religion or heritage, but by a common commitment to the ideals of freedom and dignity. Today we are the two largest democracies in the Western Hemisphere. Our partnership is strengthened by the range of regional and global priorities that we share – from advancing human rights to protecting the environment to promoting peace and security.

A few weeks ago, Brazil lost one of its great poets, Fernando Brant. “A friend is someone to keep under the lock of seven keys in your heart,” he wrote in a poem that was brought to life by the great Milton Nascimento. The piece of music is called “America’s Song,” and nothing could better reflect or honor the deep and lasting friendship between the United States and Brazil. Every day that friendship is energized by thousands of students – Brazilian students in the United States, American students in Brazil.

When I speak about the power of our exchange programs worldwide, I like to tell students how proud we are that their alumni are Nobel Laureates, leaders in their fields, and even leaders of their countries. And so it’s a tremendous honor to be joined by one of those leaders today. Madam President, we are deeply grateful for your leadership and the work that you’ve done to strengthen the partnership between the United States and Brazil.

Vice President Biden’s admiration and affection for Brazil is known throughout the hemisphere. “What makes Brazil so special,” he once said, “is not just its welcoming spirit and great diversity, but” – and I quote – “the vibrancy, the inclusive democracy, seizing opportunities that you can all taste and feel and smell, that portend for a future that’s even brighter than exists today.” That future now crystallizes in front of us, and we owe our thanks to leaders like President Rousseff and Vice President Biden whose vision and commitment serve as driving forces of progress and prosperity for both our nations.

And now on a personal note, it gives me particular pleasure to introduce a man who has been my mentor, my partner, my friend, and the greatest public servant I know, the Vice President of the United States, Joe Biden. (Applause.)

VICE PRESIDENT BIDEN: Thank you all very much. Thank you.

Well, Madam President, welcome to the State Department; and to the entire Brazilian delegation and to the secretary general of the OAS; to one of the most incredible cabinet members I’ve ever worked with, Penny Pritzker – she knows how to get things done; and also with another great member of our Administration, Tom Vilsack; and to Deputy Secretary Tony Blinken. I was telling the President on the way up as we were riding up the elevator with Tony – the President of the United States has stolen every one of my really great people. (Laughter.) Right from the beginning, he just takes them away. But the good news is it’s the reason why we never have any conflict in the West Wing, because 80 percent of the people he has worked for me before, so – (laughter). But Tony, thank you for those nice comments.

Distinguished guests, elected officials, business leaders who are here, I thank you for being here to join us in one of our most important bilateral relationships. Secretary Cohen is here. He’s a great friend, former secretary of defense. And he’s heard me say this before – there was a famous American politician every American knows, Tip O’Neill, who said all politics is local. I have been around long enough to presume to improve on that statement, because I think all politics is personal, particularly in international relations. Unless you can establish a personal relationship, it’s awfully hard to build trust. And Tony said how much I admire Brazil. The truth of the matter is one of the reasons I admire Brazil so much is I admire the president of Brazil a great deal, and we have become friends.

And Madam President has hosted me on several occasions in Brazil. One was when I went to the World Cup and she helped us celebrate the U.S. victory over Ghana, and more recently I wanted very much to attend her second inauguration, which was on January the 1st of this past year, and we had some time together then as well. And the common theme throughout our many conversations – and we’ve had many conversations – is that the U.S.-Brazil relationship is one of enormous, enormous, enormous potential.

One of the things the President and I have tried to do since we came to office is essentially fundamentally change the nature of the relationships we have in the hemisphere from – as I said, we can look from the tip of Canada to the tip of Argentina and see for the first time a hemisphere that is democratic, middle class, secure, and at peace. And the single most important element of that is Brazil. And the fact of the matter is that through many of our conversations, we’ve discussed the incredible potential that this relationship has.

But we know, the President and I, part of it is building a trust, a trust in the hemisphere as a whole and a trust in Brazil as well that this is not – this is a different attitude we have. It’s not so much do we think any longer what we can do for, “the hemisphere,” it’s what we can do with the hemisphere as partners, as equal partners. And Brazil is an equal partner.

A great Brazilian poet once wrote: The now is so big, let’s not withdraw, let’s not retire very far; let’s go hand in hand. And that’s what we’re attempting to do. We’re attempting to change this relationship in a way to continue to build trust and confidence between us so we can move hand in hand. The potential for this relationship not just bilaterally but for the hemisphere and the world is real, it’s genuine, but it requires some time. It requires the constant building of trust between us, and the now is so big for our two nations that it was apparent in our meetings we just come from with President Obama and the really wonderful private dinner we had last night. We’re working hand in hand on a whole range of global challenges from climate change to food security and many more I could mention. But we’re also deepening our bilateral relationship, including on defense and trade. As President Rousseff and I have discussed many times, there’s already a great deal of mutual benefit that exists for our people in our existing relationship. And we have two of the largest, most innovative and dynamic economies in the world. And the future for Brazil is unlimited. There’s already over $100 billion in a trade relationship and there’s no reason why that cannot be doubled in the next 10 years. There’s no reason why we cannot continue to grow together.

The United States is the largest investor in Brazil at roughly $80 billion. More than 33,000 – as Tony indirectly referenced – Brazilian students are presently, as I speak, studying here in the United States in 742 different universities in 46 different states, getting to know and understand not just from an academic perspective, from a cultural perspective, how diverse we are as well, how diverse this nation is.

By 2017, those of us born of European stock will be an absolute minority in the United States of America. That is not a bad thing; that’s a good thing. We – our strength grows from our diversity, as does Brazil. We’re two extremely strong democracies with generous and entrepreneurial people. Our scientists and our engineers are collaborating with one another on a whole range of technical issues and including energy.

President Obama and President Rousseff announced today a very ambitious – a very ambitious climate change agenda as we head toward Paris, which has the potential to change the world, has the potential to begin to change the generational prospects for our children and our grandchildren.

In addition to that, we’ve also – we also see a few U.S. and Brazilian officials. You’ll see them excuse themselves during this luncheon. There’s a good reason for that. They’re going off to sign agreements advancing cooperation in everything from defense cooperation to trade to science and education. So do not miss the signings, fellows and ladies. (Laughter.) We’ll provide you an additional lunch if you need be.

And the Social Security Totalization, we concluded, for this visit will save U.S. and Brazilian companies more than $900 million over the next six years. Madam President, you’ll forgive me for quoting you, but when we last spoke of your visit as we were working out the details of the visit, you said that it had to be, quote, “more than a bowtie affair, more than a formal affair.” Well, you’ve guaranteed that that’s the case. This has been much more than a bowtie affair. And we can’t slow up. We always should look for a way to be better partners that benefit both our countries and the hemisphere, and I really – it’s not hyperbole to suggest that the closer we are, the more collaboration we have, I think the more the world benefits as a consequence of that.

And so Madam President, the President and I are committed to making sure that the U.S.-Brazilian relationship lives up to its full potential, and we continue to gain the trust of the hemisphere and the people of Brazil. In that spirit, I’d like to raise my glass, if I can get a glass here – thank you, thank you – I’d like to raise my glass to our friendship, to the possibilities between our nations because, as the poet said, now, the now is too big.

(A Toast was given.)

Thank you and welcome, and by the way, welcome to your daughter. The vice – the president’s daughter is with us as well. Welcome. Here, here.

Madam President, the floor is yours. (Applause.)

PRESIDENT ROUSSEFF: (Via interpreter) Mr. Joe Biden, the Vice President of the United States of America; Mr. Tony Blinken, Deputy Secretary of State; cabinet ministers; members of the delegations attending this working lunch for this event; photographers; cameramen and women; ladies and gentlemen, it gives me great joy to be welcomed here at the State Department by Vice President Joe Biden. Vice President Joe Biden has honored me with his friendship. He has honored me with his phone calls. I have met Vice President Biden on several occasions and the several different shows and tokens of interest and friendship that he has evinced towards my country have made you, Vice President Biden, a very unique, a very special friend for me as president of the republic and for the people of my country. Your efforts – and may I make this a public recognition – your efforts have greatly contributed to make sure this visit has been brought to fruition. So for that reason, Mr. Vice President, you can be sure – and make no mistake whatsoever – of all my admiration and esteem towards you.

Earlier this morning, I had the very fruitful, productive working meeting with President Obama and all of his Cabinet staff. Yesterday, early evening we had a dinner and you were there to join dinner, Vice President, and we had a great conversation. Excellent.

The U.S. is a high-profile partner for Brazil. The United States, our partners, whose fundamental feature, just as Brazil, lies in the fact that we are two large democratic nations. We are nations endowed with peoples who have a very substantial feature – their multicultural, multiethnic background and diversity, plus the strength of our bilateral trade flows as well as the historic longstanding presence of U.S. investments in Brazil. All of the above provide the foundation for our relations. They also serve as evidence of the trust that both countries enjoy in the eyes of the private sector.

A closer coordination of our two economies is being now complemented by the education efforts, which help our societies move together and closer. We’re now launching the basis and the foundation for the knowledge economy ultimately anchored in science, technology, and innovation. The U.S. has been the main destination of Brazilian students as part of the science without border – or Science Without Borders programs. Quite a few students from the U.S. also study in Brazil. The agreement on professional and technological education we signed today will extend on to basic and technical education opportunities for teacher training, school management, plus the development of content and educational technologies.

Dear Vice President, the U.S. and Brazil are doubtlessly complex societies, vibrant societies, and each Brazilian citizen, each U.S. citizen who get to know each other by traveling, by interacting and interfacing with each other, do take a little bit of their own lives to each other’s societies in exchange. It is therefore extremely important that countries of – the magnitude of our countries also exercise the responsibility of working towards peace and prosperity for the region at large, as well as the world, broadly speaking. You just mentioned that you believed – or that you believe in local politics, but more than just local politics, you said that you also believe in personal politics, so that politics can, indeed, become universal and global in scale.

So in tune with that, may I greet you, Vice President; may I also greet President Obama as well as President Raul Castro’s braveness in resuming negotiations with a view to establishing relations with Cuba – not just because of Cuba in and of itself, but above all because that was a major gesture, the repercussions of which are huge for relations within Latin America. Consolidation of democracy in Latin America and in the Caribbean is quite certainly a very important development. Consolidation of democracy has been the result of economic growth and social inclusion, but more than that, it has been the result of a deliberate option, a deliberate choice for democracy and for establishing sound and solid democratic principles in our countries – the vast majority of which emerged from past dictatorships.

Consolidation of democracy will be more effective – as effective as we respect the rule of law, but also more effective if we cooperate among ourselves. In this hemisphere, throughout the continent, Vice President, we can also build an example of peace, cooperation, and partnerships, win/win partnerships.

Ladies and gentlemen, Vice President Biden, when we met earlier in January, he said – he told me that he knew that Brazil and the United States would always work together, but at increasingly higher thresholds and limits or levels in the years ahead. I believe it has to be and has truly been the most important feature or hallmark in our partnership; i.e., building of convergence and do so building upon a frank, constructive dialogue. Brazil wishes to have with the United States the kind of relationship that is in line with the multipolar order that has emerged in the 21st century, ultimately anchored on the multilateral system with a view to building consensus and ultimately based on cooperation efforts. Without cooperation, we will not have a stable world or international order, hence the important participation of a joint role of both Brazil and the U.S. with a view to achieving that relationship. We currently cooperate on a bilateral basis. We also meet on a multilateral basis at the G20.

And I believe that now we have before us a major responsibility. The responsibility consists in ensuring the success of the upcoming Conference of the Parties, COP21 Conference on Climate Change to be held in Paris in December. Today, Vice President, I believe Brazil and the U.S. have taken a major step and made a tremendous contribution to ensure that the upcoming COP conference will become an effective conference that will indeed achieve clear-cut and reliable targets. The joint statement we have adopted is an unmistakable sign of the commitment we have achieved. I believe that the 20 percent goal of – or by way of renewable sources of energy as the renewable share of our energy mix, not including the hydro sources, is really a historical development.

On the peace and security arena, we welcome the recent resolutions regarding the proposed solution to the Iranian nuclear dossier, something for which Secretary Kerry’s initiatives have proved extremely important.

I therefore view this visit as an opportunity for us to celebrate the mutual exchanges and success of our relations and nations. The success of this visit has a historic debt to you, Vice President Biden, because of your determination and the willingness to keep on engaging in a dialogue. Brazil and together, by adding up our capabilities and by learning with our differences, will be able to more effectively act to find solutions to overcome the major challenges of our times, as said by President Franklin Roosevelt following the Yalta conference. This is a quotation I am eliciting way back in international relations, but at a point in time where the question of peace was at stake. And I quote, “World peace cannot be the work of one man, a party, or of a nation. It cannot be just the peace of a big or small country. World peace should ultimately be peace anchored and grounded on a cooperation effort involving the whole world.”

It is with that perspective that I would like to invite Vice President Biden and all attendees to join me on a toast or in a toast to the friendship ties of our two peoples and the renewed partnership between Brazil and the United States.

(A Toast was given.)