BRASILIA–Brazilian industry has resumed interest in opening free trade talks with the U.S. after sidelining such discussions in recent years, Brazil’s National Confederation of Industries, or CNI, said Thursday.
The group said the idea was reinforced by CNI President Robson Andrade at a meeting with 200 U.S. business leaders this week at the Kansas City Federal Reserve branch office in Denver.
“A free trade accord isn’t done overnight,” Mr. Andrade said. “We need to begin negotiating an accord with the U.S., because Brazilian industry will become more competitive.”
The U.S. is currently Brazil’s second-largest trade partner after China. Brazil, however, hasn’t posted a trade surplus with the U.S. since 2008. In 2012 Brazil ran a $5.7 billion trade deficit with the U.S. In the January through September period this year, Brazil has run a trade deficit with the U.S. of $8.5 billion.
In spite of a recent slowdown in Brazil’s economy, Mr. Andrade said that several Brazilian industrial sectors still offered good opportunities for growth and investment, including aerospace, beverages, rubber, shoe manufacturing, pulp and paper, automobiles and steel.
He said, however, that Brazil could no longer afford to restrict its opportunities to regional trade in South America through the Mercosur trade bloc if it hoped to boost growth.
“As a leader in Latin America, Brazil needs to seek new partnerships, without being tied to Mercosur,” he said. “I want to make it clear that Mercosur is important, but it’s not enough.”
The latest talk of free trade negotiations with the U.S. comes as the E.U. and the U.S. near completion of a free trade agreement, and as Brazil struggles to bring its Mercosur region trade partners together for negotiating a free trade agreement with Europe. Under Mercosur rules, Brazil cannot negotiate alterations in many of its import tariffs without the consent of Mercosur partners.
Brazil and its Mercosur partners are scheduled to present a joint free trade agreement proposal to the European Union by the end of December for negotiation in 2014.
Brazil and the U.S. last negotiated free trade early in the last decade under the proposed Free Trade Area of the Americas, but Brazil abandoned those discussions in 2003 after former Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva took office.