President Jair Bolsonaro and First-Lady Michelle Bolsonaro are staying at the Blair House as guests of President Donald Trump and First-Lady Melania Trump. They will be meeting together tomorrow.
Tonight at 11:00pm Fox News host Shannon Bream has an exclusive interview with President Bolsonaro from the Blair House. Additionally, the White House has provided some background details that highlights the importance of the summit.
[White House Briefing] SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Hey, good afternoon. So obviously, tomorrow, the Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro will be meeting with President Trump. Clearly, we have seen, since day one, President Bolsonaro’s election as a real opportunity to fundamentally remake our relationship with Brazil.
This is something that we have been doing since day one, in which, within an hour of President Bolsonaro being — at that time, President-elect Bolsonaro being confirmed as the President-elect, President Trump called him, was on the phone with him. A couple of weeks later, National Security Advisor John Bolton went down to Rio to visit with him. Secretary of State Pompeo led the delegation to his inauguration.
And now this is the first bilateral overseas visit of President Bolsonaro’s presidency. And, in coming to the United States, it’s the first time in history that a Brazilian President has first come to the United States as his bilateral overseas visit. And that’s very meaningful to us, as clearly it is to them.
The U.S.-Brazil relationship has always been one of potential, but yet it always seemed that that potential has never been met. This time, it is different. This is a historic remaking of the U.S.-Brazil relationship, where there’s truly going to be a North-South axis of the two largest economies in the Western Hemisphere and a true partnership of the two largest economies in the Western Hemisphere.
This is historic in all proportions because it’s no longer what the potential of the U.S.-Brazil relationship could be; it’s about what the U.S.-Brazil relationship is, and the performance and the execution of, really, a large bilateral agenda that we have set forth since he was President-elect, since that first conversation, since that first visit by Ambassador Bolton, since the follow-up by Secretary Pompeo.
We were already, from day one, ready to move forward with a big bipartisan agenda. And, in this trip, you will see, as a follow-up, the execution of a lot of what has been discussed and agreed to in a historically short time. Here we are, just three months in, and we’re already way ahead of the curve on this one.
So this is a very exciting opportunity, and not just, obviously, for what it would mean for the United States, the United States economy, for Brazil and its economy, but my understanding — and I haven’t followed up in the last couple hours — but my understanding is, today, the Brazilian stock market was going through the roof, was having a big up-turn.
And so — by the way, forgive me if my news is not as current; I haven’t checked since this morning. But that goes to show the positivity of the markets and the way the markets are receiving, really, this axis of North and South America with its two largest economies. That’s extraordinarily important. It’s important domestically and it’s important for our foreign policy.
Who would have thought — you know, we always joke around that even the friendliest of Brazilian governments was really never that “friendly.” But here we have, now, a government in Brazil that (inaudible) consider an ally. And, as such, we’ll be working together — have been working together on regional issues, like Venezuela, and look forward to working together on international issues, on non-regional issues like Iran, China, North Korea, and others.
So this is a real, historic opportunity where the United States and Brazil are aligned on domestic, regional, and foreign policy priorities. You will see — after the visit tomorrow, we will plan to announce a joint statement that will have a lot of deliverables, some which are currently, frankly, right now being signed and being finalized and being negotiated. And that’s all extraordinarily positive.
We think that we have, really, a historic opportunity to reframe hemispheric relations with this North-South axis. And it’s really centered upon the relationship of President Trump and President Bolsonaro — one that they’ve created from that moment he got elected. Obviously, there’s great synergy there and there’s a great mutual respect. And that personal relationship will stand at the core of this remake of our bilateral and regional relations with — (inaudible) a lot of consequences, as I said, that are positive.
So, with that, I will really just answer questions going forward.
Q Hello, it’s Toby Capion calling from EWTN. What are the remaining disagreements between Brazil and the United States?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: I wouldn’t characterize them as disagreements. I think one of the things that’s really encouraging and it’s been a different side of our bilateral relations when we sit down and have these discussions is, really, we look towards — you know, so there’s been a long history, whether it’s been on trade issues, whether it’s been on regional or other international issues, where there has been differences between — and frankly, disagreements between the United States and Brazil.
Frankly, ever since we sat down on January 1st, and even before, with the government of President Bolsonaro, it was very clear that we sought to move, you know, on all of these issues — domestic, economics, on trade, on regional, and international issues — that when we sat down and said, “Okay, what can work together on?” And then from there, we worked downwards to remove obstacles.
So we’ve actually approached this relationship as now one that’s looking at disagreements and then moving upwards, but what we want to accomplish as partners and then working downwards to get through them. So we have the goals set, and what we’ve been doing is ensuring how to reach those goals, how we overcome any speedbumps along the way.
So I wouldn’t characterize anything as any disagreements, per se; it’s really more a technicality, and then — because there’s a huge will and disposition to move forward on goals, whether it’s on the economic trade front, the regional front, or the broader international front.
Q Hi, it’s Roberta Rampton from Reuters. I’m wondering if you can tell us whether the United States is going to support Brazil’s bid to become a member of the OECD as part of this remaking of the relationship? And secondly, if you can tell us whether U.S. officials or the President are going to ask President Bolsonaro or his officials to sort of pull back or prevent Huawei from building its 5G network in Brazil.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: So the United States, as we’ll be seeing — has seen and has expressed a very positive mindframe and has welcomed the efforts on economic reforms, best practices, regulatory frameworks, and truly a commitment to overcome some of the issues that Brazil has had in the past, in order to gain accession to OECD. We see those efforts and that positive movement in a favorable light, and clearly, we want to help Brazil achieve its goal, and we’ll do everything we can in order to help them achieve their goal.
In regards to Huawei and 5G, in regards to China, look, clearly, the United States — you know, we have discussed our concerns in regards to security issues, in regards to China, in regards to what that will mean for Brazil. They have had a whole host of different meetings here where they heard from our experts on security, intelligence matters, and otherwise, in order to understand the consequences of these networks and how, frankly, dangerous and how it can undermine their security domestically.
So, obviously, as friends and as allies, we have those conversations and we have had them in full confidence, and we expect to be working together on those moving forward.
Q Hi, this is Kyle Mazza from UNF News. Thanks for hosting the call. I wanted to ask if Venezuela would be a subject of discussion in the bilateral meeting with President Bolsonaro. Thanks so much.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Venezuela will absolutely be a subject of discussion between — clearly, President Bolsonaro and President Trump share a strong support for Venezuelan Interim President Juan Guaidó. Brazil has allowed the United States to pre-position humanitarian aid for Venezuela on Brazil’s northern border. And obviously, we’re very grateful to that.
We also give them credit for working tirelessly to provide humanitarian aid to the Venezuelan people and, frankly, opening their doors. I think there is more than 120,000 Venezuelans who have fled to Brazil to escape Maduro’s (inaudible). So they’re suffering the firsthand consequences on that. They saw the violence at the border on February 23rd, and they’ve been good partners.
There’s also an opportunity here whereby they can be very good interlocutors. The Brazilian military has very good relationships with the Venezuelan military. The Brazilian military can clearly communicate with them in regards to what should be the role of the Venezuelan military in regards to civility; in regards to protecting civilians, not repressing, and not maintaining the usurpation of democracy that Maduro seeks. That could be very positive messaging.
We view the Brazilian military as a very important interlocutor with the Venezuelan military. One also that can express the intentions of the United States (inaudible) with this peaceful constitutional transition. And we look forward to working closely with them as such.
Q Hey, thanks for doing the call. First, just sort of a logistical one. I know it’s on background; we’ve asked that it be on the record. But barring that, can the SAO just identify himself so that we know who it is?
And then, more substantively, I’m wondering if you could talk a little bit about what the discussions have included and whether you’ve reached any agreements on U.S. access to the rocket-launch pad in Brazil, on uranium mining, or on visa-free travel for U.S. citizens in Brazil.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: I’ll take the first part. If you reach out to us, we can identify the necessary SAO components and all of that.
So the President has welcomed, and we’re moving forward in regards to the — as you refer to the Technology Safeguards Agreement, which is what you’re referring to, which we hope — which will allow for U.S. commercial space launches from Brazil and for closer defense cooperation. And so we look forward to that conclusion. And that would be, obviously, a great advance and another great example of this close (inaudible).
Q Hi, this is Doug Palmer with Politico. Thanks for taking the call. I know that some senators have written asking for the administration to press Brazil on wheat market access issues. Can we expect anything on that front tomorrow? And is there any other trade deliverables that you could maybe preview ahead of the meeting?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Yes, there’s been extensive discussions on agricultural issues. I think you’ll see, tomorrow in the joint statement, some of the deliverables. Brazil has indeed agreed to some of these issues, and we look forward to expanding our relationship on these. And you’ll see it in the joint statement. Obviously, I don’t want to get ahead of the President and won’t reveal those. But there has been great progress.
Q Hi, good afternoon. This is Luigi Sofio for TV Globo, Brazilian TV, and I have two questions. The first is regarding the use of (inaudible). (Inaudible) confirm that it was Congress? And my second question is, what are the concrete steps being taken —
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Can you repeat the first question? Can you repeat the first question before you get to the second one? Can you repeat the first question? I didn’t hear it.
Q Yes, sir. Yes, sir. Can you hear me now?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Yeah.
Q My first question is regarding the use of the Alcântara base. Does the U.S. need to confirm it by the U.S. Congress? And the second question is: What are the concrete steps being taken by the U.S. government to increase trade cooperation with Brazil?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: So, going to the first question, I think that is in line with what we were previously talking about in regards to the Technology Safeguards Agreement. And that was understanding. I’m not sure, in regards to whether — I don’t believe that it needs to go to Congress. We can get you a follow-up after with that, for sure. But, obviously, that is a big development and it goes back to what I was saying in regards to the U.S. commercial space (inaudible) and the closer defense cooperation. And we think that that’s a great development.
In regards to trade, we had a trade surplus of about $27 billion with Brazil last year. We want to move forward. You know, these are two largest economies in the Western Hemisphere. There’s a lot of things that we do and we share and we produce in common, but there’s also a lot of things from where there’s a comparative advantage.
And clearly, you know, we’ve always kind of looked past each other, and I think we have a unique opportunity here to really create this North-South axis, as I said, not only in regards to these regional and international foreign policy issues, but as regards to trade and moving forward, and deepening our trade relationship, per se.
We’ve also — on the business side, we’ve been discussing other ways. And you’ll see some announcements tomorrow in regards to how to bring our business communities closer, how to bring our private enterprises closer, and also new initiatives in regards to energy cooperation, new initiatives in regards to infrastructure.
So you’ll see tomorrow, really, a full gamut in regards to the economic relationship between the United States and Brazil and, really, just in a short time, in three months, taking a huge step forward — I would say a historic step forward — towards realizing that potential that has always been discussed but that has never seemed to be (inaudible).
Q Hi, this is Jill Colvin from the Associated Press. Thank you very much for doing this call. I wanted to ask you about the relationship between the two leaders. You mentioned President Trump calling very early on. Can you talk us through a little bit about how often they’ve spoken, what their relationship is based on, and how the two of them get along personally? Thank you.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: So, they’ve definitely spoken on — they’ve spoken on a couple of occasions. And it’s been — clearly, President Trump has followed President Bolsonaro’s campaign. Obviously, his name was invoked on many occasions during the campaign, and all of you in the broader media have referred to him as the “Trump of the Tropics.” That obviously has caught the President’s attention.
And, really, I think one of the things that we also have to look at here in regards to this — to the election of President Bolsonaro — is that, in his election, he broke all of what I would say were the historic taboos of winning an election in Latin America. He was unabashedly — and particularly in Brazil — unabashedly pro-American. He ran on the campaign that he wanted to be the best friend to the United States, that he wanted to have this close relationship with President Trump and what that would mean for Brazil, what that would mean for the region and the world. I think that was very important.
He also ran on a very critical campaign in regards to Venezuela, in regards to Cuba, which broke those taboos that he run toward the left in Latin America. And he also was very critical of his concerns in regards to Chinese debt and investment in Brazil and in the region as a whole. So his — that election really broke a lot of those taboos.
In regards to the first, in wanting to be one of the best allies of the United States, if not the best in the Western Hemisphere, it really, obviously, caught the President’s attention. We recognize, again, these are the two largest economies of the Western Hemisphere, and this could create a historic North-South axis. This is something (inaudible) really want to pursue for many reasons. And part of it, and the key underlying it and making it all possible, is this mutual respect that exists between President Trump and President Bolsonaro.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Yes. So, we’ve got time for one more question. Before we move onto it though, I just want to reiterate attribution is on background as “senior administration official.” We will be working to put a transcript together later today, most likely. So thanks everyone, again, for joining us.
Q Hi. This is Emel Akan from the Epoch Times. Thank you very much for this call. I have a follow-up question on China. China is one of the biggest trading partners of Brazil and the largest importer of oil. And the U.S. is now in talks with China. Will there be any discussions between the U.S. and Brazil with respect to China’s structural reforms, or (inaudible) structural reform discussion and IP theft and forced technology transfers?
And what is basically the goal of the U.S. administration at the moment with respect to China in the bilateral talks? Thank you.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: The United States and Brazil share some things in common here. Yes, you know, Brazil is one of China’s big trading partners. The United States is one of China’s big trading partners as well. And as such, we face a lot of the same difficulties. We face a lot of the unfairness and a lot of the security concerns.
So we both — you know, these are two countries, as the two largest economies in the Western Hemisphere — these are two countries that face many of the same challenges from China on the economic influence space and in regards to the inherent structural unfairness of the trade relationship and the effect that it could have.
So, clearly, that has been a subject of President Bolsonaro’s trip. That will be a subject of discussion tomorrow. Brazil is a member of the BRIC countries — of the B-R-I-C countries — where China is also a member. Brazil has already — it’s been very interesting, because even just last week or week before, Brazil came out clearly in its position, and within the BRIC system sought to tell the other countries that they were wrong-headed as regards to Venezuela and their continued support for Maduro’s usurpation of democracy there.
You know, when you have a BRIC member, a member of the BRIC that discusses these issues that were taboo — obviously, China is also a member of the BRIC countries — you know, it kind of changes the whole dynamic of the conversation.
So, clearly, this is a unique opportunity to voice concerns. They face a lot of the similar issues that we do. And we look forward to cooperating with them on these solutions.
OPERATOR: Okay, that concludes our last question.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Yes. Correct. Thanks, everybody for joining. Again, we’ll have a readout as soon as possible. In the meantime, if you have any follow-up questions, please feel free to check in with us. And look forward to seeing everybody tomorrow.