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White House says it aims to strengthen ties with Brazil, but will speak out on concerns

FILE PHOTO: Opening session of the Year of the Legislative in Brasilia

WASHINGTON (Reuters) -The Biden administration is closely following developments in Brazil with regard to human rights and climate, but intends to continue strengthening U.S. economic ties and trade with the South American country, White House press secretary Jen Psaki said on Monday.

The administration of Democratic President Joe Biden on Feb. 5 had announced an additional $300,000 (1.5 million reais) in funding from the U.S. Agency for International Development to bolster Brazil’s emergency COVID-19 response, Psaki told a White House briefing.

“We are by far the largest investor in Brazil, including in many of Brazil’s most innovative and growth-focused companies, and will continue to strengthen our economic ties and increase our large and growing trade relationship in the months ahead,” she said.

Asked about calls by human rights groups and Democrats in Congress for Washington to halt trade talks with Brazil over concerns about human rights and climate concerns, Psaki said the Biden administration would not refrain from raising concerns where there were differences.

“Just as is true in many of our relationships, we look for opportunities to work together on issues where there is joint national interest, and obviously there’s a significant economic relationship, and we will not hold back on areas where we disagree, whether it’s climate or human rights, or otherwise,” she said.

The administration of former Republican President Donald Trump had sought to boost ties with Brazil, the largest economy in Latin America, and provide a counterweight to China, which has become Brazil’s largest trading power.

In October, Brazil and the U.S. signed three agreements to ensure good business practices and stop corruption, and set a target for doubling bilateral trade in the next five years from around $100 billion currently.

The Democratic-controlled U.S. House of Representatives Ways and Means Committee last year blasted the Trump administration for cozying up to Brazil given its record on human rights and the environment under President Jair Bolsonaro.

Bolsonaro last month wrote to Biden on the day he was inaugurated and said he hoped the two countries would pursue a broad free-trade agreement during Biden’s tenure.

(Reporting by Andrea Shalal; Editing by Leslie Adler)

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