Brazil President Dilma Rousseff and Mexico President Enrique Pena Nieto signed an investment cooperation accord and pledged to work together to boost growth and expand the middle class in Latin America’s two biggest economies.
On Rousseff’s first state visit to Mexico since taking office in 2011, the countries Tuesday signed agreements to facilitate investment, increase air travel and cooperate on tourism.
Rousseff said that while the two nations have strengthened ties in recent years, Brazil can do more to invest in Mexico. Mexican investment in Brazil is currently about $23 billion a year, while Brazil invests just $2 billion annually in Mexico, according to Rousseff’s administration. Both presidents have seen their popularity fall amid political scandals, weak growth and global oil prices that slumped to a six-year low in March.
“This is the beginning of a new stage, as you pointed out madam president, a new chapter in the friendship between our two nations,” Pena Nieto said to Rousseff before they toasted with Mexican tequila and Brazilian cachaca at a lunch in the gilded banquet hall of Mexico City’s national palace. “This is a chance to leverage our strengths, starting from our similarities.”
After Chinese demand for iron-ore and rising crude prices made Brazil an investment star in Latin America for much of the last decade and Pena Nieto pushed to open Mexico’s oil industry to more private investment, both presidents are confronting challenges from slumps in commodity prices.
Pena Nieto’s Institutional Revolutionary Party is also focused on midterm elections in less than two weeks for control of the lower house of Congress and governors in nine states.
Approval ratings of both leaders have taken a hit as Mexican citizens protest persistent violence and Brazilian demonstrators demand Rousseff’s impeachment.
The last time Rousseff was in Mexico was June 2012 for a meeting of the Group of 20 nations in the resort city of Los Cabos just weeks before Pena Nieto was elected. Pena Nieto visited Brazil as president-elect in 2012.