Sarney Offers U.S. Deal on Imports : Brazil Would Buy More Goods if Debt Payments Are Cut
Brazilian President Jose Sarney promised on Thursday an increase in Brazil’s imports from the United States, provided simultaneous steps are taken to reduce payments on his country’s $110-billion foreign debt.
The alternative to debt relief, Sarney warned, is “crises, shocks or disruption.”
He also defended the barriers that Brazil has erected to keep out foreign imports, saying that such measures are necessary to protect the country’s infant industries.
The second day of Sarney’s state visit was dominated by speech making, with an address to a joint meeting of Congress in the morning, an appearance before the National Press Club and remarks to the Organization of American States.
His visit here has been dominated by profuse expressions of Brazilian-American friendship, accompanied by an undercurrent of irritation over U.S. objections to the South American country’s trade policies.
Sarney had breakfast Thursday morning with Vice President George Bush, Secretary of State George P. Shultz, Treasury Secretary James A. Baker III and other officials.
Brazilian sources, insisting on anonymity, said that the exchanges between the two sides were harsh and that no progress was made in overcoming differences.
Speaking in the House chamber before a sparse turnout of Senate and House members, Sarney promised a reduction in the $5-billion surplus that Brazil had in its trade with the United States last year.
He said increased imports are needed to maintain Brazil’s growth rate, which at 8% in 1985 was one of the world’s highest.
“We will be buying more agricultural and industrial goods from our chief trading partners, especially from the largest, the United States,” he said, speaking in Portuguese while his listeners read an English translation.
“Our demand for imports will thus help to reduce the trade deficit of this country.”
But, Sarney said, the increase cannot take place without cutbacks in Brazil’s debt repayment schedule. “In other words, we will have to pay less for some time to be able to import more,” he said.
“It is necessary to promote an understanding among the leaders of creditor and debtor nations to reduce the magnitude of payments now being made.
“This would allow the debtor countries to again import more from the creditor countries, and their own growth can, in turn, contribute to the recovery and normalization of the world economy.”
The turnout of legislators was limited by a heavy schedule of congressional hearings Thursday morning. Only a few dozen of the 535 members of Congress turned up, with many seats filled by congressional pages.
By tradition, the Cabinet attends joint meetings of Congress, but only Shultz and U.N. Ambassador Vernon Walters were present. Other Cabinet members were represented by subordinates.
In his speech before the press club, Sarney again sought to defuse U.S. complaints over Brazil’s protectionist policies by saying that during the first six months of 1986, Brazil imported 26% more from the United States than it did in the same period last year.
Of particular concern to the United States are the barriers that Brazil has erected to American computer technology.
After a lengthy investigation, U.S. Trade Representative Clayton K. Yeutter is scheduled to make a recommendation to President Reagan next week on a possible U.S. response.
American officials have said privately that they are optimistic the two countries can work out their differences without the need for U.S. retaliation.