U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer is making it clear to Brazil that the U.S. is serious about strengthening trade and economic ties between the two countries whose leaders appear to be fond of each other.

Lighthizer, according to the Office of the USTR, spoke last week with Brazilian Minister of Foreign Affairs Ernesto Araújo to “deepen discussions” on an “economic partnership” between the two countries. The call was a follow up to the latest meeting between Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro and U.S. President Donald Trump at his Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida in early March. It was after that second meeting between the leaders that Brazil’s Trade and Investment Promotion Agency, also known as ApexBrasil, released a 36-page report on why the two countries should unite under a free-trade agreement. The White House did not specifically mention a possible FTA, but lauded the potential for a “bilateral trade package” this year.

The Office of the USTR stressed last week after the phone call that the agency will “consult with Congress in the coming weeks to seek guidance on how best to expand trade and develop our economic relationship.” Brazil is a major importer of U.S. wheat, ethanol and farm equipment. On Jan. 1, Brazil opened a long-promised 750,000 metric-ton tariff rate quota for wheat outside its Mercosur trading partners and that is expected to benefit mostly U.S. exporters.

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