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Harper calls for stronger business ties with Brazil

Stephen Harper and his Brazilian counterpart are enlisting CEOs from both countries to act as brokers in cementing stronger trade and investment ties between the two economies.

The Prime Minister, in Brazil to deepen relations with the world's seventh-largest economy, met with Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff Monday.

Mr. Harper and Ms. Rousseff announced they're creating a CEO forum that would draw on executive talent in both countries to solicit advice on expanding bilateral trade.

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The first name unveiled for this group is Murilo Ferreira, CEO of Brazil's mining giant Vale SA, which bought Canada's Inco several years ago.

He was nominated by Brazil to serve as co-chair. More names will be unveiled in the coming days, including Canada's nominee as co-chair.

In all, six chief executives from each country will take part. The remaining five from each country will be recruited by the respective co-chairs.

The CEO forum will meet on the sidelines of future high-level political meetings between Canada and Brazil.

After Monday's meeting with Ms. Rousseff, Mr. Harper publicly invited her to visit Canada and get a "taste of all things Canadian."

Mr. Harper said Brazil and Canada are "natural partners" as multicultural nations that have both escaped the bulk of the economic woes afflicting countries from Europe to the United States.

"We share the fundamental values of democracy, diversity and human rights," he said.

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"We have both been successfully weathering the headwinds of the global economy due to strong fundamentals."

Mr. Harper and Ms. Rousseff struck a number of deals Monday, including an agreement to further open up air travel between the two countries.

Canada also pledged to share its expertise in organizing three sets of Olympic Games with Brazil, which is playing host to the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.

Mr. Harper, speaking to Ms. Rousseff, praised Brazil for its economic growth and its success in returning to democracy after a dictatorship that ended in 1985.

He also vowed to spend more time in South America.

"Your remarkable emergence as a global economic power and your embrace of democratic freedoms after many years of autocratic rule are an inspiration to struggling peoples everywhere," Mr. Harper said.

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"So, although this is my first visit to this magnificent country, I don't intend it to be my last," he said. "Indeed, I anticipate spending more time on this continent as we continue to pursue our Americas strategy."

The countries signed a new air-transport agreement expected to lower flight prices by giving Canadian and Brazilian carriers more flexibility to expand their network and services into each other's markets.

Two-way-goods trade between Canada and Brazil was $5.9-billion in 2010 and Brazil was the eighth-largest source of foreign investment for Canada last year.

Canada and Brazil, whose relationship hit a low point a decade ago over aircraft-maker subsidies and a ban on Brazilian beef, have been exploring whether to start talks on a free-trade agreement.

Brazil can't negotiate a deal without the rest of Mercosur – a four-country economic bloc it belongs to – so discussions can't start without the approval of Argentina, Paraguay and Uruguay.

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About the Author
Parliamentary reporter

Steven Chase has covered federal politics in Ottawa for The Globe since mid-2001, arriving there a few months before 9/11. He previously worked in the paper's Vancouver and Calgary bureaus. Prior to that, he reported on Alberta politics for the Calgary Herald and the Calgary Sun, and on national issues for Alberta Report. More

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