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BOSTON – Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff’s first official visit to the United States included a stop at the Massachusetts statehouse for a business luncheon with Gov. Deval Patrick to solidify ties between Latin America’s largest democracy and the U.S. state with the largest Brazilian community.
“Massachusetts can be considered one of the most Brazilian states in the United States, since the largest foreign population here is comprised of our citizens,” Rousseff said at the luncheon.
Rousseff was greeted on the steps of the statehouse Tuesday morning by nearly 100 Brazilian students from the neighboring communities of Somerville and Everett.
They waved Brazilian flags as the President was escorted up a red carpet and stood with Patrick while the Brazilian and U.S. national anthems were played. Rousseff was then taken to an official meeting in Patrick’s office with his delegation.
At the luncheon, Patrick mentioned several educational and business partnerships that have been created as a result of a trade mission he made to Brazil in December.
“As the sixth largest economy in the world, and home to a large and important part of our immigrant community, Brazil is one of our most important international partners,” Patrick said at the luncheon. “Like Massachusetts, Brazil’s focus in education and innovation is driving job growth and catalyzing international investment.”
About 50 government, academic, and business leaders went to Brazil during the trade mission in an attempt to highlight the importance of growing both the Massachusetts and Brazilian economies through innovation.
According to the governor’s office, in 2011 Massachusetts exported more than $450 million worth of goods and services to Brazil, and got more than $130 million in imports from Brazil.
Rousseff came directly from a visit to Washington D.C. yesterday, where she met with President Obama to discuss a number of issues that included strengthening economic ties between the two countries, the opening of two new U.S. consulates in Brazil to stimulate more tourism, and discussions related to Middle East policy.
Rousseff’s visit comes a year after Obama visited Brazil in March 2011.
At the statehouse luncheon, which included a toast by both Patrick and Rousseff, the Brazilian president reiterated her administration’s priority to promote scientific and technological innovation. This is a chief concern given Brazil’s interest in increasing the number of skilled workers to meet the demands of its economic growth.
“This is a decisive task for Brazil to make the competitive leap it needs,” she said. “As host to a number of significant universities a large number of which are of international renown, this state has much to offer our Science Without Borders program and other Brazilian and American ventures related to science, technology, and innovation.”
As part of her administration’s focus on fostering partnerships with institutions of higher education, Rousseff’s visit is meant to promote the Science Without Borders program, which plans to provide some 100,000 scholarships for Brazilian graduate students to study overseas, with as many as half studying at American universities.
Later today, Rousseff will visit the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and give a public address at Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy School of Government.
Tanya Pérez-Brennan is a freelance writer based in Boston.