Despite feeling snubbed at a recent international forum, Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro, the leader of South America’s largest economy, will meet next month with President Biden, the leader of North America’s largest economy.
The two embattled leaders are scheduled to meet at the Summit of the Americas in Los Angeles next month, the first such meeting in the United States since it was held in Miami in 1994 during efforts to create the Free Trade of the Americas, which eventually failed.
In fact, Miami or even Houston would have been a more natural place for the two leaders to meet, were the meeting not part of a larger event, since Miami International Airport and the Port of Houston generally account for close to a third of all U.S. trade with Brazil.
Through the first three months of the year, the most recent U.S. Census Bureau data available, Brazil ranked as the United States’ 16th most important trade partner overall, the third in the Western Hemisphere behind Mexico and Canada, and the first in South America.
In 2021, the two countries finally broke their 2012 record for total trade, ending the year at $78.17 billion. Thus far in 2022, trade is well above the 2021 pace, up 34.78% through March.
Also through March, the Port of Houston ranked ahead of MIA with 16% of the total trade to 15% for the South Florida airport. In 2021, MIA had ranked first with 18% of all U.S.-Brazil trade compared to 15% for the Port of Houston. MIA has ranked first on an annual basis for more than a decade.
Looking at ports in the Summit of the Americas host area, the Port of Los Angeles accounted for 2.3% and the Port of Long Beach 2.1% of U.S.-Brazil trade in 2021, 1.8% and 3.1%, respectively, so far this year.
Although it’s an oversimplification, MIA does well when Brazil’s economy is doing well and the Port of Houston does well when energy prices are doing well, with both predominantly exporters to Brazil.
In fact, the United States only has a trade surplus with five top 20 trade partners, with Brazil being one. The others are the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, Singapore and Belgium.
The Port of Houston’s exports to Brazil are dominated by gasoline and other refined petroleum products, oil and liquid natural gas.
This year, the value of the three was worth more than two-thirds of the value of all port exports there. Last year, the total was slightly less than two-thirds, showing the impact of rising oil, gasoline and LN
Port of Houston’s trade with Brazil is increasing at a rate of 41.78% this year compared to 8.77% at MIA, where the exports are more stable in price.
MIA’s exports to Brazil are a hodge-podge of aviation parts; high-tech commodities like computer chips, computers, cell phones and satellite equipment; and health-care-related products like medical instruments, vaccines and plasma, and medical equipment.
Looking at the top five overall U.S. exports to Brazil, gasoline and other refined petroleum products are up 51.49% in value, civilian aircraft and parts are up 5.97%, the value of oil is up 90.73%, the value of the generally more stable LNG is up 16.59%, and coal is up 98.90%.
The top five imports from Brazil this year are oil, up 120.14%; coffee, up 51.64%, semi-finished products of iron and steel, up 42.29%, returned exports up 41. 48%, and non-dissolving-grade wood pulp, up 68.90%.
Biden and Bolsonaro are embattled for different reasons.
Biden’s popularity has been relatively low for some time, thanks in large part to inflation, while the Brazilian leader is down in the polls for the October election to previous President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva.
Appearances on an international stage can sometimes help, though Bolsonaro did not leave the G20 meeting last year in good spirits, relative to his relations with Biden.
“I met him at the G20 and he went by as if I did not exist, but that was how he treated everyone. It might be the age, I don’t know,” Bolsonaro said.