Remarks After Meeting With Brazilian Foreign Minister Jose Serra

John Kerry
Secretary of State
Palacio Itamaraty
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
August 5, 2016

FOREIGN MINISTER SERRA: (Via interpretation) Good afternoon. I want to begin by saying that the visit of Secretary John Kerry and the very productive meeting we just had may represent the first step of a new phase in the relationship between Brazil and the United States – they may represent, and I am certain, I am confident that they will represent.

The closeness between U.S. and Brazil is bolstered by President Obama’s commitment to cooperation and diplomacy, and even self-criticism of U.S. support in the past of dictatorships in Latin America; he stated this publicly. In the same vein, the Democratic president has advocated the closing of the prison at Guantanamo and has reestablished diplomatic relations with Cuba, beginning to lift the economic embargo imposed on the island decades ago. These are progressive and very significant positions, that historically, I would say, have immense importance.

President Temer’s stance, on the other hand, of an open and mature relationship between our two countries helps us build a sustainable partnership between us. Our visions – Brazil and the United States – our visions and interests converge in many areas, it is important to underline this point, such as sustainable development, in which Brazil is at the forefront of the world, along with the United States; human rights, defense of democracy, cooperation on education, health, science, and technology.

I am personally committed to the promotion and protection of human rights and democracy. And, as minister of foreign affairs, I will strive for Brazil to become more active and proactive on these issues, including seeking partnerships with friendly countries in these areas, such as the United States.

Our nations also share the goal of expanding bilateral trade and investment in order to generate more and better jobs. This is a clear priority for the Brazilian Government and for my work ahead at Itamaraty. I am directly involved, as everyone knows, in strengthening Brazil’s foreign trade agenda. And, it was with pleasure that we celebrated last week the opening of both our markets to fresh beef exports that counted on the strong collaboration of the U.S. ambassador in Brazil. I consider this agreement, led on the Brazilian side by Minister of Agriculture Blairo Maggi, to be a very positive sign that promises advances in future negotiations in other areas.

The economic interconnectedness of the United States and Brazil is impressive. Really, I want to share a few numbers with you. The volume of trade is US$50 billion. The quality of this trade is good for both countries. Incredible as it may seem, 75 percent of our exports to United States are manufactured goods; a fact that may be surprising to those who don’t follow these issues closely. And, this increases the value of our exports and creates more jobs. And moreover, the United States is the largest foreign investor in Brazil with US$116 billion in investment stock. Now, Brazilian investments in the United States increased from US$7.3 million in 2009 to US$22.4 billion in 2014, tripling during that period. In 2000, for each dollar invested in the United States by Brazilian companies, US$47 were invested by American companies in Brazil. In 2014, this ratio dropped to three. That is, for each dollar invested in the United States, US$3 were invested here. The ratio dropped significantly. This also shows an interesting potential strength for the Brazilian economy.

And, our task now is to concentrate work on mutually agreed upon priorities. In certain areas, we will be able to achieve short-term results, like we have with beef and with the Brazilian Congress’ approval of the open sky agreement or in negotiation of areas of trade facilitation, which has huge potential for commercial expansion, and therefore, I insist, for job creation. In other sectors, we will work to achieve medium-term results, in areas such as defense, in partnerships with the private sector for investments in infrastructure that we hope will attract investments from all over the world, including from the United States, which has greater volume, or even in negotiations on double taxation and investments.

I would also like to thank, on behalf of President Temer, the confidence of the U.S. Government in the strength of the political and judicial institutions of Brazil that, in my point of view, are examples of maturity in conducting the current impeachment process.

Finally, I’d like to thank Secretary John Kerry for the excellent, frank, and productive conversation that we just had, to thank him for his visit, and, to wish the American team success in the Olympic and Paralympic Games. I would also like to reiterate to the U.S. Government and the American people that we wish great success in the presidential elections in November. No need to tell you who I would vote for, but you can imagine. Thank you very much.

SECRETARY KERRY: Apolitical diplomacy. Thank you, Jose. I’m really personally delighted to be back in Brazil – boa tarde – and thank you for your generous welcome and for the opportunity to be able to meet and talk. I almost feel guilty of just a few hours before the opening ceremony of the Olympics to be meeting as we have, but I think both of us felt that this was a very important opportunity, a very important moment, and Brazil and the United States have a lot to talk about and a lot to do together. So we wanted to take advantage of that. I also have great memories of my first trip here to Rio. I came in 1992 to the Earth Summit and spent several days here during the course of that and got to also enjoy how to look at life a little better after a caipirinha. It was pretty good. (Laughter.)

We are very much cooperating with our friends in Brazil on the issues of a safe and sound, secure Olympics. I’m confident they will be. I think that a great deal of effort has been put into this, and I want to congratulate Brazil for its extraordinary efforts and we look forward to an exciting Olympics.

As Secretary of State, I have seen how sports bring countries together. This morning I had a chance to visit with our team – some of our team, our track and field team, and you could just feel the energy of these young people and the excitement they have about meeting other young people from other countries, from other ways of life, other cultures. That’s the power of the Olympic village. It’s the power of the Olympics themselves, which in a time of division and strife in our world, it’s good for us to think about the meaning beneath the competition, that the Olympics is supposed to be a uniter and a place where we put away the disturbances of daily politics and life in between countries, and find out and really live out an ideal. And this is a moment, I think, in the world where people want ideals and they particularly would like to see them lived out.

So I am absolutely sure that Brazil is going to produce not just a great venue, but a great Olympics. And in the context of this diplomacy, let me say to people that I’ve kicked a soccer ball around in Afghanistan. I’ve seen young women who want to play sports in Afghanistan struggling to be able to have their full rights. I’ve sat on a gym floor and played seated volleyball with wounded veterans in Colombia. And I have had an opportunity to play a little basketball in Cyprus with some kids who were all part of a program to bring both Turkish Cypriots and Greek Cypriots together on the island. I have seen what sports did with President Nixon’s sending of a ping pong team to China, and the Boston Celtics going to Russia and Eastern Europe during the course of the Cold War in the 1960s.

So sports has the ability to capture the imaginations of people and transcend the boundaries of gender and nationality and race and creed, and that is what makes this special. And that’s why many leaders from many parts of the world are coming here to celebrate this moment at the Olympics.

So let me just say a word about the bilateral relationship of the United States and Brazil. We are natural partners in so many different ways, and we really want to build on that partnership. I think it’s just an honest statement to say that over the course of the last few years, the political discussions here in Brazil had not allowed the full blossoming, if you will, of the potential of this relationship. We remain committed to working with Brazil to combat global climate change, for example. And we look forward to hopefully Brazil joining and ratifying the Paris agreement that we signed. We’re going to be joining with China and others at the UN in September in moving forward on our making this agreement come into force.

Both Brazil and the United States also recognize the urgent need to safeguard our oceans, our marine resources, our fisheries – to protect them from the acidification that comes from global climate change, the pollution that comes from various forms of development, and the overfishing that comes from huge demand. And so we have a responsibility to do that, and we look forward to working with Brazil in that endeavor. We have an ocean conference in Washington on the 15th and 16th of September, and we very much hope Brazil will be there, be part of that conference, in helping us to exercise our global responsibilities.

In addition, we talked today – this afternoon about the refugee summit that President Obama will be hosting at the United Nations. And again, we hope that new and significant commitments will be made at that conference in order to deal with this global crisis that we all face.

We also are going to cooperate to deal with the challenge of Zika, as we did all come together to deal with the challenge of Ebola and other challenges. And I’m confident that together we will be stronger and able to respond to those. We will come up with better vaccines. We will come up with other technologies in order to deal with these challenges.

The United States and Brazil also – and Jose spent a fair amount of time talking about this. We also share a very important economic relationship, which he described. And he and I agreed today that this is a relationship that has enormous potential for growth. We want to look forward to working together in order to increase our bilateral trade in goods and services, and we think there are many ways available to us to be able to do that. I also wanted to express the respect that the United States has for Brazil’s efforts in the fight against corruption, and we will deepen our collaboration together in our joint interests in making sure that other countries follow suit with respect to their fight, as well as their efforts to keep faith with democracy.

We talked about Venezuela and the need for the government in Venezuela to be able to come together with the opposition in order not to put one party above the other but to put the people of Venezuela – who are suffering enormously as a result of their economy, which has contracted, and other challenges – rather than see a humanitarian disaster develop, we hope to see a stronger democratic commitment and an urgent meeting of the needs on a humanitarian basis of the people of the country. We thank Brazil for working with us together with the Organization of American States. We need to continue to create momentum and underscore the importance of a fair and timely recall referendum and the release of political prisoners and respect for the rule of law and the freedoms of expression and assembly.

And in closing, let me just emphasize that despite the test of this hemisphere in certain fields in different ways, we have no question that the shared democratic trajectory of the Americas – the Americas writ large – is a vivid example to other regions of the world. Every day, the peoples of our hemisphere are proving that diversity is a strength, that inclusivity works, that justice can overcome impunity and set an example to people about the rule of law, and that protecting the rights of any individual person – regardless of their gender, of their sexual orientation, or their political opinion – all of that – to respect that is a hallmark of a genuine democracy.

So on behalf of President Obama, I just want to again thank the foreign minister for his warm welcome, and we thank Brazil for its partnership. Brazil is a global power. We respect that, and we will meet at the G20; we will meet in many fora where we have an ability to try to find a common ground and work together. And I am absolutely confident that together we’re going to have the ability to be able to meet our interests and live our values, and that’s the most important thing of all. Thank you very much. Thank you, Mr. Minister. Good to be with you. Thank you, sir.

FOREIGN MINISTER SERRA: (Via interpretation) We will close here. I just want to reiterate what I mentioned during my remarks regarding the important role that U.S. Ambassador to Brazil Liliana Ayalde has played – she will leave her post soon; we will miss her – and the importance of the future Brazilian Ambassador to U.S. Sergio Amaral, who the U.S. has already agreed to, who will be approved by the Senate, and at the end of the month will assume his duties in Washington working to fine tune our agenda. Thank you very much.