Claire Trevett

Claire Trevett is the New Zealand Herald’s deputy political editor.

Key out to woo Iron Lady of Brazil

Inaugurated in 2011, Rousseff is a formidable and fascinating woman, often dubbed Latin America's Iron Lady. Photo / AP
Inaugurated in 2011, Rousseff is a formidable and fascinating woman, often dubbed Latin America's Iron Lady. Photo / AP

Prime Minister John Key will meet Brazil's President Dilma Rousseff for the first time tomorrow and is hoping to establish enough of a relationship to push for greater access for New Zealand businesses to the growing market.

He said he would also use the meeting to seek Brazil's support for the Security Council bid in 2015. The other three countries he has visited on the Latin American trip - Mexico, Colombia and Chile - have pledged support.

However, Mr Key said Brazil was unlikely to show its hand publicly because it was pushing for a permanent seat on the Security Council.

He said there was a warm relationship between the two countries, but they did not know each other well and he was hopeful his meeting with Rousseff would kickstart stronger links.

Inaugurated in 2011, Rousseff is a formidable and fascinating woman, often dubbed Latin America's Iron Lady. She is Brazil's first female president and a former Marxist-leaning guerrilla, who survived lymphoma in 2009.

An economist by education, she is considered a pragmatic capitalist and one of her first jobs was to crack down on corruption.

Although Brazil had slow economic growth and high inflation last year, she is popular, partly because of that stand on corruption.

Mr Key said many New Zealand companies were interested in Brazil and there was a lot of room for expanding current investments.

Fonterra has identified Brazil as the market with most potential for it, just above Mexico. Brazilian mining company Petrobras could also be discussed - Petrobras recently pulled out of its mine exploration permits in New Zealand, which Mr Key said was partly due to domestic issues in Brazil.

"We might find out what is going on but we won't push it too hard."

Wooing Brazil in trade is considered to be harder work than with countries such as Mexico and Chile. It is a major food producer itself and there is a high internal demand, so it does not rely on international trade as much. It also leans to the Atlantic rather than the Pacific in international relations.

Brazil's medium-term attention is increasingly on the major sports events it is due to host - the Fifa World Cup in 2014 and the Olympics in Rio de Janeiro in 2016.

Supporting Brazil's bid to become a permanent member of the Security Council could help New Zealand's case, but Mr Key said New Zealand's position was for an interim measure in which some of the larger countries were given extended terms on the council, until there was reform.

Brazil

*New Zealand's 49th largest trading partner.
*Exports to NZ: $112 million - vegetables, fruit, coffee and tea.
*Imports from NZ: $81.3 million - chemicals, machinery.
*More than 2000 Brazilian students studied in NZ last year.

Read more:

Key visits Fonterra farm in Chile
Key can't escape football in Sao Paulo

- NZ Herald

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