Florida and Brazil: Hands of Friendship, Cooperation, Across the Ocean
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Published in the Boca Raton Tribune
May 10, 2013
By Carlo Barbieri
Second of two-part series
The United States and Brazil have enjoyed a friendship and spirit of cooperation going back nearly 150 years. That mutual admiration has spread to many sectors – from business and industry to education, music and the arts. And it shares much of that good economic fortune with the American state closest to Brazil – Florida.
Brazilian Ambassador to the U.S. Mauro Vieira gave an enlightening keynote address at the recent International Days held in Tallahassee, sponsored by the Florida Chamber of Commerce. It highlighted not only how Brazil and the U.S. have worked together to share prosperity, but also how that cooperative spirit is working to guarantee a brighter future for the two nations.
“We have a political and business relationship based on shared values,” Vieira said in his address to a packed house. “We have an important political relationship that reinforces our economic ties.”
The two nations, he said, are multi-ethnic, multi-cultural democracies. And while both have been shaken by a staggering recession that is just now beginning to ease, the U.S. and Brazil have weathered the storm nicely.
Vieira noted how the Latin American nation “has experienced a high level of growth in the last decade. More than 24 million people rose out of extreme poverty to enter the middle class,” a sizeable segment of the population. Brazil counts about 100 million citizens in that division.
The World Bank, he said, declared that Brazil “grew threefold between 2000 and 2011.” Right now, it has a respectable unemployment rate of 4.6 percent and inflation is “under control” at 5.8 percent.
The Florida-Brazil link is most obvious in the tourist trade, where Brazilians – taking advantage of their generally good wealth and strength of the nation’s money – have few qualms about spending that cash in the U.S. Last year, tourists from Brazil left $11 billion in the cash registers of stores, restaurants and other shopping venues around the country.
“Florida is a special state,” said Vieira. “It was Brazil’s first partner state in the U.S.” Nearly two dozen different types of products are exported to Florida and Miami International Airport is Brazil’s hub to the world.
“The Brazilian business sector sees Florida as an excellent investment,” said Vieira. The state is well developed, with a huge financial and economic base. Its universities have opened themselves to Latin America. Many important Brazilian companies are located in Florida and in the U.S.” Thirty firms with roots in Brazil are thriving on Florida turf. They have made a local investment of $360 million, he said, and created “good-paying jobs” for some 2,000 people.
The ambassador also touched on an educational initiative that had created a new connection between Brazil and the U.S. The leading South American country has created a program called “Science without Borders,” which offers shared research opportunities between the two countries. It also offers students a unique learning experience in a different, but allied country.
The program concentrates on the so-called “STEM” courses – Science, Technology, Engineering and Math. Vieira said he viewed its operations at Florida State University in Tallahassee where 20 Brazilian students have arrived. That brings to more than 100 the number of young people from Brazil taking part at Florida schools along. That brings to 5,000 the number of students who came to America to expand their own horizons. He said the host nation, which pays the total cost of the program, is looking to expand even more.
Even Brazilian music, entertainment and culture are ripe for sharing, Vieira said. “It promotes immigration and friendship, making it easier for each society to understand the other. Vibrant economies produce more cultural arts.” He cited Miami as an area where “there is lots of culture and music, especially from Latin America.”
At the same time it is working the conduit with Florida, Brazil is strengthening its own resource system. This an area such as energy, Brazil, like America, is focusing on “oil and gas, biofuel, renewable energy and the civilian use of nuclear energy.” Brazil hosted a Dialogue on Energy, one of four initiative established by U.S. President Barack Obama. Vieira said Brazil is doing a healthy oil exporting business and has 15 million barrels of oil in reserve, putting the nation in 14th place in the world. Continued search for oil and investments in shale oil investigation are seen as lucrative future avenues.
Brazil wants to share that future along with the United States. Regarding shale oil, Brazil has much to gain in cooperation with the U.S,” he said. “Access to the technology for investigation and distribution will create business opportunities in both countries.”
In his address, Vieira looked to a bright future shared by Brazil and the United States. “I only have words of thanks to the Florida Chamber of Commerce for organizing International Days.”