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American Business Needs to Get in the Game

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Teamwork. Cooperation. Intense preparation.

That's what is needed to win at the highest levels of athletic competition. It also is what will be needed in Brazil as the country prepares to host two of the world's largest sporting events: the 2014 World Cup and the 2016 Summer Olympics.

As I traveled with President Obama in Brazil, you could see the anticipation and excitement building for these events; you also could see the enormous investment and planning that is required to ensure that they will be successful.

Brazil is planning to spend $200 billion in additional infrastructure across the country on everything from roads and public transportation to airports and sports stadiums. World Cup events alone will be played in 12 cities.

It is critical, as President Obama told business leaders in Brazil, that America does more than just watch these projects from the stands. It is critical that we get in the game.

We may not always win on the soccer field, but when it comes to providing the engineering services, machinery, security systems and IT support required to build and run the stadium, or the buses and transportation systems needed to get fans into their seats, American business is second to none.

This is no time for the United States, particularly our business community, to be sitting on the sidelines. These projects play into America's strength -- and require the types of high-quality capital goods and services that U.S. companies lead the world in producing.

To ensure that Brazil can obtain more American-made products and services for these important projects, President Obama announced $1 billion in financing through the Export-Import Bank of the United States.

Its purpose is to facilitate the purchase of more American goods and services for various infrastructure projects, including those associated with the World Cup, the Olympics and the rebuilding that is needed in the wake of recent flooding in Brazil.

One of the key points President Obama emphasized in our meetings was the enormous opportunity for Brazil and the United States to be doing more business together. And to be doing the kind of business that is mutually beneficial for our countries -- the type that creates good jobs and boosts local economies.

2010 was a strong year for that type of cooperation and teamwork. And there is reason to be even more bullish on the future.

U.S. goods exports to Brazil were up 35 percent in 2010. These sales support about 250,000 U.S. jobs. And over the last five years we have doubled our exports to Brazil.

This has allowed our countries to build a strong and mutually beneficial $80 billion trading relationship -- and we see enormous opportunity to grow and deepen these economic ties in the coming years.

Brazil's economic trajectory has been remarkable. Today, it is the world's seventh largest economy --a \nd this growth has helped put millions of Brazilians on a path to the middle class.

However, meeting the needs of this growing middle class will require significant additional investment in building power capacity and infrastructure.

In Rio today, 16 percent of people move around the city using mass transit. The country is making plans to raise that figure to 50 percent by 2016. This will require an incredible investment.

The city currently has 25,000 hotel rooms. To meet the demand for upcoming events, they are looking to grow that by 4,000 rooms by 2013, with the goal of further increasing capacity for the Summer Olympics.

In addition to these infrastructure projects, Brazil is expecting electricity consumption to grow more than 60 percent between 2009 and 2019, requiring total investment of more than $128 billion.

To address this, Brazil is rapidly developing its renewable energy sector, with a particular focus on biofuels, hydropower, wind and solar. The country also recently discovered deepwater oil reserves that are twice the size of our reserves.

These are all additional areas of opportunity and for partnership between our countries -- and they are sectors where private investment is critical. They also happen to be areas where Ex-Im Bank's financing is particularly effective at ensuring the success of a project.

We have a long history of working with Brazil, beginning back in 1936. Much of our early work involved financing the sale of millions of dollars of American-made electrical, railway, mining, and cargo equipment.

As Brazil continues to build and rebuild, there is an enormous opportunity for the U.S. to assist on these critical projects. And we are continuing to look for new and innovative ways to finance these transactions.

In the last two years, our nation has made real progress in building the foundation for an export-focused economy. And the results are beginning to show: Exports were up 16.7 percent in 2010, putting us on target to meet President Obama's goal of doubling exports by 2015. And in January they hit the highest one-month total ever recorded.

To continue building on that momentum, we need to focus on strategic partnerships with key markets across Latin America.

In today's global economy, nations that build together -- and buy from each other -- are invested in ways that go far deeper than just business transactions. They are investing in each other's prosperity, security and economic vitality. They are investing in the hopes and dreams of each other's citizens.

When we make these investments, regardless of what happens on the playing field, both our countries -- and our citizens -- come away winners.