Calling himself "a great admirer of the progressive, forward-looking leadership that President Lula has shown," President Obama opened up a joint press availability this afternoon after a meeting between the two heads of state. President Lula described the topics covered in the meeting, from stemming the global financial crisis, to addressing the unemployment around the world that results from it, to development in Africa and Latin America.
(President Barack Obama greets President Lula da Silva of Brazil on Saturday, March 14, 2009 in the Oval Office. White House Photo/Pete Souza)
President Obama was also asked about Brazil’s almost unprecedented move towards biofuels, and whether that would create friction with biofuel producers in the United States, but both President Obama and President Lula struck a very positive, optimistic note:
PRESIDENT OBAMA: Is that directed at me? Well, look, I think Brazil has shown extraordinary leadership when it comes to biofuels. And I've been a great admirer of the steps that have been taken by President Lula's government in pursuing biofuels and developing them. And this is an investment that Brazil has made for a very long time.
My policies coming into this administration have been to redouble efforts here in the United States to pursue a similar path of clean energy development. And I think we have a lot to learn from Brazil.
As I mentioned to President Lula, I think we have the potential to exchange ideas, technology to build on the biodiesel cooperation structure that we've already established. I know that the issue of Brazilian ethanol coming into the United States has been a source of tension between the two countries. It's not going to change overnight, but I do think that as we continue to build exchanges of ideas, commerce, trade around the issue of biodiesel, that over time this source of tension can get resolved.
PRESIDENT LULA: This is the very first meeting that we have between the Brazilian administration and President Obama's administration to discuss this issue. Actually, my answer is built in your question. I can't also understand while the world is concerned with climate change and with carbon emissions that bring greenhouse effect, (inaudible) fuel gets tariffs, and clean fuel also gets tariffs. I have discussed this with Angela Merkel, with Tony Blair when he was Prime Minister, with President of France, Sarkozy, with former President Bush.
I never expect an immediate answer. This is a process. As time goes by, Brazil is proving that biofuel is an extraordinary alternative. And slowly the countries will be convinced. And slowly other countries will join the biofuel effort. That's what I believe.
A seminar will be held in New York City on Monday, where I will attend, and this will be a strong issue that will be discussed there. I talked with President Obama about the possibility for us to build partnerships with third-party countries, especially a joint project with the African continent. And things will move forward as people start changing. No one can change overnight, in terms of their energy matrix. Thank God for 30 years Brazil has already control -- technological control and know-how on this issue.
And when President Obama comes to visit Brazil I'm going to ask him to get inside a car that is run by a flex-fuel engine and he will feel very comfortable.
PRESIDENT OBAMA: I actually had a flex-fuel vehicle. But one of the problems here in the United States is, is that we don't have enough gas stations that have biofuels in them. So that's one of the areas that we need to change our distribution networks here in the United States.