U.S. backs Brazil for OECD membership, but Argentina first

BRASILIA (Reuters) – The U.S. government said on Thursday that it supported Brazil’s taking steps toward joining the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), though it is first backing accession by Argentina.

“We are enthusiastic supporters of Brazil’s entry into this important institution and the United States will make a strong effort to support Brazil’s accession,” Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said in a statement.

In a letter to OECD Secretary-General Angel Gurria in late August, Pompeo backed the bids by Argentina and Romania but made no mention of Brazil, despite a public endorsement by U.S. President Donald Trump in March.

“The leaked letter does not accurately represent the United States’ position with respect to OECD enlargement,” Pompeo said.

Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro, who has held Trump up as a role model, has touted U.S. support for Brazil’s OECD bid as one of the achievements of his nine-month-old government.

Standing next to Bolsonaro outside the White House on March 19, Trump announced his support for Brazil to become a full member of the OECD, a forum of three dozen democratic nations with solid market economies.

Bolsonaro played down the U.S. support for Argentina on Thursday, saying OECD accession was a drawn-out process and it could take Brazil up to a year and a half to become a member.

“We’re almost there, but there were two countries in front of us, Argentina and Romania,” he said in a Facebook live webcast to supporters.

The U.S. Embassy in Brasilia said the United States supports the enlargement of the OECD at a measured pace that takes into account the need to press for governance reforms and succession planning.

OECD membership is seen as a stamp of approval that boosts investor confidence in a country’s government and economy.

Brazil’s OECD bid ran into broad U.S. opposition to expanding multilateral bodies. The Trump administration has agreed to a paced expansion of the OECD, which means Brazil will have to wait it turn.

In December, a Brazilian government report said the main obstacle to its request to join the OECD, first made in May 2017, was opposition by the United States and the U.S. Trade Representative’s office in particular.

In Latin America, only Chile and Mexico are in the club, while Colombia is on track to join soon.

Reporting by Marcela Ayres in Brasilia and Eric Beech in Washington; Writing by Anthony Boadle; Editing by Brad Haynes, Peter Cooney and Cynthia Osterman

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