President Obama, balancing the crisis in Libya with a long-planned trip to Latin America, arrived in Brazil Saturday at the outset of a three-country swing aimed at strengthening the nation's economic relationship with its neighbors and improving regional security.
"As we respond to these immediate crises abroad, we also will not let up in our efforts to tackle the pressing, ongoing challenges facing our country, including accelerating economic growth," Obama said in his weekly address before departing.
Latin America is experiencing rapid economic growth, the president said, and is open for business with North American companies. "We now export more than three times as much to Latin America as we do to China, and our exports to the region will soon support more than two million jobs here in the United States," he said.
After Air Force 1 landed in Brasilia, the capital, Obama was briefed on the fluid situation in Libya by National Security Adviser Tom Donilon.
On a drizzly day, Obama was met at the Brasilia airport by U.S. Ambassador Thomas A. Shannon, prior to a formal welcoming ceremony and bilateral session with Brazil President Dilma Rousseff at the presidential palace. Rousseff accepted an invitation to visit the United States later this year.
Later at a meeting with CEOs, Obama said the two countries would enter into a new trade and cooperation deal and also an open skies agreement, liberalizing the countries' respective rules for air routes, capacity and pricing of commercial airliners.
The president was accompanied by first lady Michelle Obama, their daughters Sasha and Malia, and Marian Robinson, the president's mother-in-law. He will also visit Chile and El Salvador in Central America.
Speaking in Brasilia Saturday at a youth cultural event, Michelle Obama noted that she had come from a modest working class background. "I want you all to look at me and see that anything is possible, That's why I'm here... " she said. "I hope that you all will keep pushing yourselves. I hope you all will keep pushing one another. I hope that you all continue to work as a commnity, you support each other, that you encourage each other...."
In Washington, Sen. Richard Lugar (R-Ind.), top Republican on the Foreign Relations Committee, said Obama should consider proposing a reciprocal tax treaty with Brazil, so companies doing business with both nations can avoid double taxation, the Associated Press said.
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