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Brazil Fighter Competition in Hands of President Rousseff

Brazil’s President Dilma Rousseff will decide by mid-year on a fighter plane for her country, a contract for as much as $4 billion that Boeing Co. is vying to win, according to a U.S. State Department official.

Brazilian officials told their State Department counterparts this week that they have completed technical evaluations, including for Boeing’s Super Hornet, and “now the decision lies” with Rousseff, Assistant Secretary of State for Political-Military Affairs Andrew Shapiro said in an interview.

Boeing is pitted against Dassault Aviation SA’s Rafale and Saab AB’s Grippen to provide the aircraft. The contest represents one of Chicago-based Boeing’s last largest overseas sales opportunities for the Super Hornet, the F/A-18E/F, according to Richard Aboulafia, an aerospace analyst for the Teal Group in Fairfax, Virginia.

“They told us the decision will be made during the first half of this year,” said Shapiro, whose job includes boosting U.S. arms sales abroad in competition with U.S. allies. Shapiro met with Afonso Carbonar, the Brazilian special adviser on defense issues, and Air Force General Marco Aurelio Concalves Mendes.

“The subject is still under analysis of the Brazilian government, with no specified date for the conclusion,” according to an e-mailed statement from the office of Rousseff’s press secretary.

Mieke Jordan, a spokeswoman for Saab in Washington, referred questions to the company’s headquarters in Stockholm, where no one could be reached after normal business hours. Stephane Fort, a spokesman for Paris-based Dassault couldn’t be reached after hours in Paris.

‘Robust Pitch’

The political-military talks on Feb. 28 were the second after a five-year hiatus. The first round was held in Brasilia. The talks were in preparation for Rousseff’s scheduled April 9 Washington visit with President Barack Obama.

“I made an enthusiastic and robust pitch for the Boeing F-18,” Shapiro said. “I reiterated that our offer has the most advanced technology. I also made the point a contract with Boeing would provide thousands of jobs.”

The Brazilian officials didn’t suggest during the discussions “that we needed to do more” technology transfer agreements, Shapiro said. The size and scope of how much technology the U.S. would share as been a point of discussion.

Shapiro said the State Department increased its approval of “direct commercial licenses” for items intended for sale to Brazil to 92 percent last year from 80 percent in 2007. He said that is “indicative of the level of transfers we are willing to provide.”

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