Chile & South America Trip for Economic Purposes, Says Obama
David Hope
Mar 18, 2011, 13:01

Chile, Brazil and El Salvador are all destinations for President Obama who will travel to South America later tonight to visit with leaders and discuss jobs and economic situations.

Latin America has 600 million people, is growing and needs "goods and services that, as president, I want to see made in the United States," Barack Obama says.

He is expected to talk about hemispheric challenges such as poverty and drug violence.

"But in this increasingly interconnected and fiercely competitive world," he will focus on "creating and sustaining" new U.S. jobs and opportunities, Obama said in a USA Today op-ed article published Friday.

"Nearly 600 million people live in Latin America. The region's economy grew by about 6 percent last year. Between 2010 and 2015, it's expected to grow by one-third," Obama said. "And as these markets are growing, so is their demand for goods and services -- goods and services that, as president, I want to see made in the United States of America."

Even as the Japanese crisis and Middle East and North Africa unrest dominate his national security briefings, Obama decided not to cancel his trip because of the importance he and his advisers gave to renewing relations with a huge emerging market for U.S. goods and services, administration officials told The Washington Post.

Obama will meet Saturday with Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff, who told the Post in December she wanted to "forge closer ties" with the United States.

Obama is expected to stress Brazil's growing role in the world economy. It already "imports more goods and services from the United States than from any other nation," Obama said in his USA Today column, and he said he wants that to grow.

Brazil is projected to become the world's fifth-largest economy in 2016, the year Rio de Janeiro hosts the Summer Olympics.

Those games, along with the 2014 FIFA World Cup, are expected to offer billions of dollars in opportunities for U.S. businesses, the White House said.

Brazil also has large, newly discovered deep-water oil reserves.

Obama is expected to make at least two speeches in Brazil and also to visit Rio's famous 125-foot-high statue of Jesus, known as "Christ the Redeemer," which towers over the city from Corcovado mountain.

Obama is expected to visit a favela, or shanty town -- one of the many makeshift settlements that sprawl across the hills of Rio.

Obama said in USA Today he would work with Chilean President Sebastian Pinera to build on the 2005 U.S.-Chile Free Trade Agreement, which he said has led to a 300 percent increase in U.S. exports to Chile and supports an estimated 70,000 U.S. jobs.

Obama is expected to ask Pinera to take a more visible role in Latin America, both as an economic role model and as a defender of democracy and human rights. Chile has not done this much because it depends heavily on trade with its neighbors and doesn't want to antagonize them, The Miami Herald said.

In El Salvador, Obama will discuss the economy and trade with President Mauricio Funes. He is also expected to discuss regional security matters and seek joint solutions to drug trafficking, gang wars and organized crime problems, Salvadoran U.S. Ambassador Francisco Altschul told the Herald.

Immigration will also likely come up, the White House said.

About 2 million Salvadorans live in the United States, with 200,000 of them under temporary protected status extended after a 2001 earthquake. El Salvador would like to see a more permanent solution on their status, the Herald said.

First lady Michelle Obama has her own schedule of events, including a cultural performance by young disadvantaged Brazilians, an education speech in Chile and a visit with underprivileged Salvadorans.

The Obama daughters, Malia and Sasha, are expected to travel with their parents as part of their spring break vacation.

Source: UPI

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