(Reuters) – The United States and Brazil signed an agreement on Monday meant to bolster military ties, but Brazil’s Defense Minister Nelson Jobim did not offer any hint about a key defense contract sought by U.S.-based Boeing Co.
The U.S.-Brazil accord, which was announced last week and signed at the Pentagon by Jobim and U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates, is the first agreement of its kind in more than 30 years between the two countries.
“This agreement will lead to a deepening of U.S.-Brazil defense cooperation at all levels,” Gates said at the signing ceremony.
Gates, who leaves on a trip to South America later this week, said the accord also offered a “transparent, positive model for engagement throughout the Americas.”
A similar accord with Colombia last year that allowed increased use of Colombia military bases by U.S. troops raised eyebrows in the region. Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez called it part of a plot for invasion.
The U.S.-Brazil accord contains no provisions related to the use of Brazilian bases. It does promote military exchanges
– such as naval ship visits — and cooperation on “the acquisition of defense products and services,” the Pentagon said.
Brazil is in the final stages of picking a company to manufacture 36 jets, a contract worth more than $4 billion. The deal could eventually rise to more than 100 aircraft.
U.S. officials have said a victory by Boeing could bring the U.S. and Brazilian militaries closer together. But Brasilia has sent signals that Boeing’s Super Hornet might be passed up in favor France’s Rafale jet, manufactured by Dassault.
Jobim last week said the Brazilian air force preferred the Rafale.
Asked about the matter at the Pentagon, Jobim suggested a final decision was still weeks away. He still needed to present his recommendation to Brazil’s president. It would then need to be reviewed by the National Defense Council before a final decision is reached, he said.
(Reporting by Phil Stewart, editing by Jackie Frank)