It was the president’s first stop in a day in which the administration hoped to emphasize its commitment to building economic and diplomatic ties to Latin America’s biggest country. But never far from Obama’s mind was Libya, where US and European air strikes were launched against Libyan leader Moammar Khadafy’s forces Saturday. Obama was expected to huddle throughout the day to discuss the crisis.
The operations against Libya’s strongman encroached on what Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton characterized as a vital trip for US diplomacy — a tour designed to improve sometimes strained relations with Brazil, the world’s seventh-largest economy and an important market for US products.
“Obviously, there is a lot going on around the world and much that demands our urgent attention,’’ Clinton said Friday. “But as I often say, we have to deal with both the urgent and the important at the same time.’’
On Saturday, Obama met in Brasilia, the capital, with Brazil’s new president, Dilma Rousseff. Both have expressed interest in improving relations, and the two leaders signed preliminary trade agreements.
See, had he not gone, Obama would have risked a stronger Chinese presence in a nation that will be key to the United States' recovery.
Here's the thing: Brazil is one of the so-called "BRIC" nations, four nations (including India, China, and Russia) that have growing economies and growing political influence in the world. As such, they seek a greater voice in world affairs. Brazil, as an example, is seeking the US' endorsement to have a permanent seat on the UN Security Council (Russia and China already have, and no doubt India will petition as well). Too, Brazil would like to develop its offshore oil reserves as soon as possible, and Obama would of course love to have American companies at the heart of that initiative.
The alternative is to have China drilling practically in our own backyard.
If he doesn't make this trip, Obama risks insulting a nation that will hold a grudge for a while and has the means to punish us for it. And then the right wing would be all up in arms about his failure to keep China at bay.