Brasília (AFP) – US Vice President Mike Pence arrived in Brazil Tuesday to discuss hot button issues of migration and US trade restrictions on Brazil’s steel and aluminum industries with President Michel Temer.
It was the highest level visit by a US official to Latin America’s most powerful economy since Donald Trump came to power.
An official with Pence’s delegation told reporters that global migration tensions would be a dominant theme of discussions.
The Trump administration has come under a barrage of criticism from countries in the region after a crackdown that saw around 2,500 children taken from their parents after being arrested at the US-Mexico border for illegal immigration.
Among them, authorities in Brasilia say, were around 50 Brazilians. Brazil’s government has expressed “anguish” at the separation of migrant families, a practice the White House has since rolled back.
The issue of Venezuelan refugees fleeing chaos and violence into Colombia and to a lesser extent Brazil will also be high on the agenda. Brazil is increasingly struggling to cope with the influx.
Pence, who begins his visit in the capital Brasilia, will announce increased US financial assistance to deal with the crisis when he flies to the Amazon river city of Manaus in the north of Brazil on Wednesday, Bloomberg news agency quoted US officials as saying. He is also due to visit a refugee center in the city.
Other discussions with Temer will center on tariffs of 10 percent on Brazilian aluminum and the imposition of quotas on steel imports. Brazil has so far been exempted from the 25 percent tariff on steel applied to many of Washington’s trading partners, including the European Union, Canada, China and Mexico.
Another main topic during Pence’s visit will be Washington’s interest in use of the Alcantara rocket launch site, near the Equator in northern Brazil, a geographic location that makes it much cheaper to deliver rockets into space.
Negotiations are in a “very preliminary” stage, Brazilian foreign ministry official Fernando Simas Magalhaes said, with discussions focusing on how to protect Brazilian sovereignty and at the same time US intellectual property.