(President Obama’s remarks on Greece bolded)
THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
For Immediate Release
REMARKS BY PRESIDENT OBAMA AND PRESIDENT ROUSSEFF OF BRAZIL IN JOINT PRESS CONFERENCE
12:11 P.M. EDT
PRESIDENT OBAMA: Please, have a seat. Good morning, everybody — or good afternoon. It is a great pleasure to welcome my partner and friend President Rousseff back to the White House. Bemvindo. This is another opportunity for me to reciprocate some of the extraordinary hospitality that Dilma and the people of Brazil showed to me and my family when we visited Brazil. I want to go back. (Laughter.) I didn’t get a chance to experience Carnival. Vice President Biden got to go to the World Cup — not me. But the eyes of the world will be on Brazil again when it hosts the Olympics next year. And that will be another reminder of Brazil’s remarkable rise — both at home and on the world stage.
As President, I’ve pursued a new era of engagement with Latin America where our countries work together as equal partners, based on mutual interest and mutual respect. As we saw at the recent Summit of the Americas, the United States is more deeply engaged in the region than we’ve been in decades, and I believe the relationship between the United States and Latin America is as good as it’s ever been. We’re focused on the future — what we can accomplish together. And a cornerstone of our engagement with the region is a strong partnership with Brazil.
I believe our two nations are natural partners — in the Americas and around the world. As two of the world’s largest democracies, we understand the aspirations of citizens to live in freedom. Dilma, the sacrifices you’ve made personally in your own life are a testament to that determination. As two multi-racial, multi-ethnic societies, we know that countries are stronger when they uphold the rights of all people, a truth we reflected on yesterday when we visited the memorial to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
As two of the world’s largest economies, we understand that lasting prosperity and confronting the injustices of poverty and inequality can only come when we truly invest in our people, their education, their skills, their ability to work and live with dignity. These are the enduring interests and values that bind us together.
Now, no relationship between countries is without disagreements. The United States and Brazil are no different. It’s often tempting, I suspect, to focus on whatever challenges there may be in the moment. But in steps that often don’t make headlines, the work of our nations has gone on. And over the years, President Rousseff and I have steadily deepened the ties between our countries.
We partner on global challenges, from promoting open government to combatting human trafficking to advancing agriculture development in Africa. Since I took office, we’ve boosted American exports to Brazil by more than 50 percent, and our bilateral trade has reached record levels — surpassing $100 billion a year. We’ve expanded collaborations in science and technology and the ties between our people, especially our young people. As part of our 100,000 Strong in the Americas initiative, more Brazilian students come to the United States and more American students go to Brazil. And that’s real, concrete progress that we’ve made together.
Of course, President Rousseff and I believe that, given how closely our national interests and values align, there’s much more that the United States and Brazil can be doing together. Dilma, I want to thank you for your personal commitment to taking the partnership between our countries to the next level. And that’s what we’ve done today, across a range of areas.
First, we’re announcing a series of new steps to boost trade and investment that creates jobs for our peoples. With Brazil’s recent announcement on infrastructure, American companies will have more opportunities to compete for projects to develop Brazil’s highways, airports, ports and railways. We’ll make it easier and more affordable for companies to hire workers in each other’s countries. We’ll do more to help our small- and medium-sized businesses and entrepreneurs connect, collaborate and export. And as leaders in science and technology, we’ve agreed to increase partnerships between our colleges and universities as we develop the next generation of scientists and researchers.
Second, as major economies, the United States and Brazil will continue to lead in the fight against climate change. Since 2005, our two nations have reduced carbon emissions more than any other countries in the world. In Brazil, this includes very impressive efforts over the past decade to combat deforestation, including in the Amazon — what’s sometimes called the “lungs of the planet.” Together, our countries are leaders in clean energy.
So, today, we’re taking important new steps. As we work toward a strong global climate agreement in Paris, I thank our Brazilian friends for previewing elements of their post-2020 targets for reducing emissions, including substantial new goals to eliminate illegal deforestation and restore forests. Both our nations are setting new goals on clean energy. Beyond hydropower, the United States and Brazil will aim to increase the share of electricity we generate from renewable energy to 20 percent by the year 2030.
These are very ambitious goals — a near tripling for the United States and more than double Brazil’s current output. Following progress during my trips to China and India, this shows that the world’s major economies can begin to transcend some of the old divides and work together to confront the common challenge that we face — something that we have to work on for future generations. And I’m confident that this will lead to a strong outcome in Paris.
Third, we’re working to deepen our defense cooperation. Under President Rousseff’s leadership, two important agreements were approved by Brazil’s Congress last week and are now in effect. Going forward, it will be easier for our two militaries to train together, to share more information and technology, and to cooperate during missions such as disaster response and peacekeeping. And I want to thank you publicly, Dilma, for making this progress.
And finally, we’re working together to uphold democracy and human rights across Latin America. I very much appreciate President Rousseff and Brazil’s strong support for our new opening toward Cuba. I updated Dilma on our progress, including our work to open embassies in Havana and Washington. And I believe that Brazil’s leadership in the region, as well as its own journey to democracy and a market economy can make it an important partner as we work to create more opportunities and prosperity for the Cuban people.
In short, I believe that this visit marks one more step in a new, more ambitious chapter in the relationship between our countries. We are focused on the future. Dilma, thank you for your friendship, your partnership, and the progress that we’ve achieved together. As we look ahead to the Olympics next summer, we Americans will be cheering proudly for Team USA. We’ll all be rooting for truly great games with Brazil as our host. Dilma did give me a very nice yellow-and-green sweatshirt — (laughter) — which says “Brazil” on the back. I can’t wear that in public — (laughter) — because I have to root for the USA. But at home, at night, it’s very comfortable. So who knows, I might slip it on.
So, President Rousseff, thank you.
PRESIDENT ROUSSEFF: (As interpreted.) Greetings to our dear President Barack Obama. Greetings likewise to all Cabinet ministers, members of the two attending delegations. Greetings likewise to all members and persons attending this session — photographers, cameramen and women.
I’d like to thank President Barack Obama as well as the U.S. people for the hospitality with which they have welcomed me ever since I got here and ever since I came to the U.S. through New York. This morning and last evening, President Barack Obama and I have had very fruitful, productive meetings, during which we have celebrated an upward trajectory in our relations. We have also established a robust bilateral agenda in areas such as trade, investments, climate change, energy, education, defense, science, technology and innovation.
We have reinforced our dialogue on topics of the international agenda such as the environment and sustainable development — factors that are indeed key and essential for the world and for each of our countries. We also focused on economic governance, financial governance, peace and security. The economic recovery of the United States is an extremely positive development for the world economy and certainly also for the Brazilian economy. Our bilateral trade is very substantial and is based on higher value-added products.
We want to further expand and diversify our exchanges, and here our challenge consists in doubling our trade current within one decade. The ultimate objective consists in building the conditions to ensure an ambitious trade relationship between Brazil and the United States. To that end, in the short term, we should remove especially the non-tariff obstacles that are in place for industrial goods and agricultural goods. We should slash down bureaucracy and red tape and do away with the very complicated permits, restrictions. And we would also like, of course, the high quality of production processes in Brazil to be duly acknowledged.
In the short term, our priority agenda will focus on two topics as we wish. Number one, regulatory standards convergence and harmonization of technical standards. Number two, trade facilitation through a single window system to streamline and simplify the timeframes involved in customs procedures. We would also like to cooperate with the U.S. patent offices, although it is a matter that involves intellectual property. There are positive impacts by means of investments as we expand the degree of technology incorporated into Brazilian products.
The U.S. is the main investor — foreign investor in Brazil. In 2013, the total aggregate direct investments from the U.S. in Brazil came to $116 billion. Brazilian investments in the U.S. have grown. In 2013, the total or aggregate amount of Brazilian investments in the U.S. came to $15.7 billion. These figures, nevertheless, do not truly represent the order of magnitude of these investments. And it is important to indicate that between 2007 and 2012, the growth of foreign direct investments by Brazil in the U.S. came to 221 percent in terms of the actual increase between 2007 and 2012. We want to further expand these flows — investments and trade flows — and we want them to be higher given the actual potentialities available in our two economies.
And that is one of the objectives of the efforts we have engaged in to further strengthen our macroeconomic policies, thus reducing risks for both Brazilian investments and foreign investments in Brazil. We have also developed a microeconomic agenda, therefore reducing or lessening regulatory risk, expanding the transparency or accountability of processes, and also the proper governance of relations between companies and the government.
We’re also expanding the investments opportunities in one area where coordination by the government is absolutely key in terms of setting the right expectations. I’m talking about the infrastructure area. We have launched an ambitious logistics infrastructure program. And we hope — and we thank President Obama for his commitment in ensuring a greater presence of U.S. investors in that process — the logistics development program.
I would also like to say that we have enjoyed a fruitful relationship between our two governments and the business communities. The recent bilateral CEO forum held in Brazil, it provided us with important suggestions such as, for example, the establishment or setting up of an infrastructure information center to identify, coordinate and promote investment projects, as well as the suggestion of developing financial tools and guarantees for investments in the long term with stimulating private sector involvement.
We also have a wide array of several other opportunities and achievements in areas such as the defense arena, for example; we welcome the two agreements recently passed by Congress. The Defense Cooperation Agreement will allow a very fruitful cooperation between the Brazil Ministry of Defense as well as the U.S. counterpart ministry of defense. The military information agreement, GSOMIA, on military information which will allow exchange of information in that area.
In the field of technology — biotechnology, air and space technology, I’d like to highlight one point that President Obama and I discussed and one on which we have come to a decision which I view as very important. I’m talking about climate change. Climate change is one of the central challenges of the 21st century. And we have one important objective, which is, number one, to ensure that the energy mix in our two countries will have a substantial share of renewable sources of energy.
The decision has a great deal to do with the current outlook and our involvement as part of the global emissions reductions agreement so that we are indeed in a position to materialize that agreement during the upcoming COP conference, COP 21, to be held in Paris.
The second area is very much related to the first one, which is the joint decision by our two countries to establish a 20 percent goal in terms of expanding the renewable share of sources of energy, except for the hydro sources, between now and 2020. I very much welcome that decision because it will prove extremely important in reducing greenhouse gas emissions. And also, it speaks to our clear-cut commitment of ensuring that the environment and also efforts to make sure the global temperature will not go up beyond two degrees, as agreed.
As countries that are as vast as continents, we have this very important greenhouse gas emissions target. We attach a great deal of importance to reduce not only deforestation, as we have done actually in Brazil, we have the commitment to come to a zero deforestation — or a zero illegal deforestation rate between now and 2030.
And we also wish to turn the page and engage in a clear-cut reforestation-oriented policy. That is an extremely important point for Brazil, and it also reflects the commitment we ourselves have undertaken as part of the forest code in effect in Brazil.
So the environmental agenda, in my view, is absolutely key and essential for our two countries. Cooperation and energy efficiency, for example — we are committed to putting in place smart grids. We’re also committed to minimum consumption levels — energy consumption levels. We’re also committed to establishing efficient equipment and buildings.
President Obama and I also discussed education extensively in our meetings. We believe that education in Brazil will provide us with two gains. Number one, social inclusion so as to make sure that these social gains become permanent gains. And number two, the qualitative leap forward as regards our competitiveness towards the knowledge economy.
And that is why we are most pleased to see our agreement on cooperation and technical vocational education between the Brazilian Ministry of Education and the Brazilian [sic] Department of Education. We are most pleased about that agreement.
We also wish to establish partnerships between the government research institutes in each of our two countries with a view to achieving scientific, technological improvement, as well as innovation. I would also like to stress the importance of using education technologies as a means to move towards higher-quality, more inclusive education. In that regard, without a shadow of a doubt, the high quality, as well as the ability of the United States to develop scientific and technological research in that arena has proved very important.
May I also state for the record that we attach a great deal of importance to cooperation as part of the Science Without Borders program. As part of that program, the Science Without Borders program, an important highlight is the fact that the U.S. has received the biggest number of Brazilian students. The U.S. has become the main destination of Brazilian students who are beneficiaries of the Science Without Borders program. I thank President Obama for having welcomed such a substantial wave of Brazilian grantees. I have often said time and again to President Obama that it is our ambition to change our cooperation in innovation into one of the central topics on our agenda.
We also want to make progress in our energy cooperation, particularly between the linkages between the Argonne National Laboratory and the Brazilian Research Center in Energy and Materials — CNPEM. Tomorrow I will be in California, and while in California, I intend to hold a very instigating meeting with information technology, biotechnology, and air and space companies.
I’d also like to thank President Obama because we have come to a decision to facilitate entry of frequent travelers from Brazil into the United States as part of the Global Entry program. We have also signed a very important agreement for the Brazilian population living and working in the United States. I’m talking about the Social Security agreement that will allow the Brazilians working in the U.S. to be equally covered under the Social Security agreement.
We also addressed a wide array of different initiatives. I’d like to essentially highlight the following initiatives: the decision by Brazil to join the Global Health Security Initiative, GHSI. I think it is also very important to underscore that we have a wide array of joint initiatives that can be developed and put in place in third-party countries, or triangular cooperation, particularly for the purpose of fuel production.
In conclusion, may I refer to the importance for Latin America of the recent decision made by President Obama and by President Raul Castro, even with the partnership with Pope Francis to the effect of opening up relations with — or resuming relations with Cuba, a very decisive milestone and point in time in U.S. relations with Latin America. It is really about putting an end to the lingering vestiges of the Cold War. And it ultimately elevates the level of the relations between the U.S. and the entire region.
May I acknowledge the importance of that gesture to all of Latin America and also to world peace at large. It is an important example of relations to be followed.
In conclusion, may I reiterate my invitation for President Obama to come to Brazil for the 2016 Olympics. I count on you. And of course, the invitation is extended to the Vice President, but I understand both of them are not able to be at the same time, at the same place abroad. But the same is true for Brazil. But anyway, President Obama has a standing invitation to come to the 2016 Olympics in Rio, in Brazil. And while in Brazil, he will be able to wear his green-and-yellow jersey or garment, which says “Brazil” and also “Obama” on the chest. And I’m sure you will be applauded, President Obama, if you do so.
And I also believe that this trip to the United States stands as a re-launch of our bilateral relations. So having said that, once again may I thank President Obama and the U.S. people for the warm reception, for the welcome. And may I say that we have indeed taken one step ahead in our bilateral relations.
Thank you very much.
PRESIDENT OBAMA: All right, we’re going to take a few questions, and I’m going to start with Jim Kuhnhenn, who I understand announced his retirement today. Jim, you’re kind of young to retire, man.
PRESIDENT OBAMA: While you’re ahead?
PRESIDENT OBAMA: Well, we’re going to miss you, but you’re going to be here for a couple of weeks, right?
PRESIDENT OBAMA: Congratulations.
Q It’s been a privilege to cover the White House.
PRESIDENT OBAMA: Appreciate it.
Q Sir, you’re on the cusp of entering into a nuclear agreement with Iran, but there’s still a number of unresolved issues with Iran. In particular, the fates of Americans like Jason Rezaian, Amir Hekmati, Saeed Abedini, Robert Levinson. You and your administration say you’re continuing to raise the imprisonment and disappearance of these individuals, these Americans. But still, you will sign — likely — an agreement with Tehran and those issues will remain unresolved. What do you say to them, to the families, about how you will deal with their loved ones? And I guess the bottom line is, do you find the Iranian leadership trustworthy?
And, Madam President, welcome to the U.S. You canceled a previous trip to the United States following the revelations by Edward Snowden of NSA spying on you. Are you still troubled by those revelations? And have you received assurances, and are you satisfied with the answers you have received from the administration?
PRESIDENT OBAMA: Well, first of all, Jim, with respect to U.S. citizens, U.S. persons who are held in Iran, this is something that we continue to push hard on irrespective of the nuclear deal. It’s a top priority for us to make sure that our people are treated fairly. And on the face of it, in the case of these individuals who’ve been held, they have not been and they are not being afforded the basic due process and legal rights that we afford visitors to our country.
So we’re deeply concerned about it. We spend a lot of time pushing on it, and we will continue to do so. And there’s no lessening of the sense of urgency. So when I talk to the families, we remind them of the fact that that is a mission that will continue and has been worked on consistently throughout their captivity.
With respect to the larger issue of whether I trust the Iranian regime, as I’ve said before, there are deep-seated disagreements and divisions between the United States and Iran, and those aren’t going to go away overnight. The goal of the nuclear negotiations is not to rely on trust, but to set up a verifiable mechanism where we are cutting off the pathways for Iran to obtain a nuclear weapon.
And John Kerry, right now, is there, along with Secretary of Energy Moniz, who’s one of the top nuclear physicists in the world. They are deeply engaged in negotiations. My hope is that they can achieve an agreement, but my instructions to them have been extremely clear: The framework agreement that was established at Lausanne is one that, if implemented effectively and codified properly, would, in fact, achieve my goal, which is Iran not obtaining a nuclear weapon.
There has been a lot of talk on the other side from the Iranian negotiators about whether, in fact, they can abide by some of the terms that came up in Lausanne. If they cannot, that’s going to be a problem — because I’ve said from the start I will walk away from the negotiations if, in fact, it’s a bad deal. If we can’t provide assurances that the pathways for Iran obtaining a nuclear weapon are closed, and if we can’t verify that, if the inspections regime — the verification regime is inadequate, then we’re not going to get a deal. And we’ve been very clear to the Iranian government about that.
And the good news is, is that our P5+1 partners in these negotiations feel exactly the same way. So there are still some hard negotiations to take place, but ultimately this is going to be up to the Iranians to determine whether or not they meet the requirements that the international community has set forth to be able to fairly and accurately and consistently assess whether or not they have foreclosed the possibility of obtaining a nuclear weapon. And given past behavior on the part of Iran, that can’t simply be a declaration by Iran and a few inspectors wandering around every once in a while; that’s going to have to be a serious, rigorous verification mechanism. And that, I think, is going to be the test as to whether we get a deal or not.
PRESIDENT ROUSSEFF: (As interpreted.) Yes, it is true, I did cancel my previous trip to the U.S. at that point in time. Since then, some things have changed and the change is particularly due to the fact that President Obama and the U.S. government have stated on several occasions that they would no longer engage in intrusive acts of spying [on] friendly countries. I believe President Obama. And furthermore, he has told me that if he needed — should he ever need non-public information about Brazil, he would just pick up the phone and call me. So yes, I am certain that the conditions today have become very different.
At this point, I would like to call upon journalist Sandra Coutinho with the Globo News Network.
Q (Inaudible) — all the help you can get.
PRESIDENT OBAMA: Well, if Brazil is playing somebody else then maybe I’ll —
Q Somebody else, sure.
PRESIDENT OBAMA: If they’re playing the United States, I’m sorry. (Laughter.)
Q No, no, no, not against the United States.
Okay, Mr. President, you were talking about a new relationship based on trust, and President Dilma just mentioned when Brazil cancelled this trip because of a matter of trust. And Brazil is also in the middle of a very deep political and economic crisis. Can you trust in this moment to build this new chapter?
PRESIDENT OBAMA: Well, my relationship —
Q And President —
PRESIDENT OBAMA: Oh, I’m sorry, go ahead.
Q I’m sorry. (As interpreted.) Madam President, Brazil views itself as a global player and leader in the world scene, and the U.S. sees Brazil as a regional player. How do you reconcile or strike a balance between those two visions?
PRESIDENT OBAMA: Well, I’m actually going to answer in part the question you just asked the President. We view Brazil not as a regional power but as a global power. If you think about the preeminent economic forum for coordinating between major economies — the G20 — Brazil is a major voice in that. The negotiations that are going to be taking place in Paris around climate change can only succeed with Brazil as a key leader. And the announcements that have been made today about their goals on renewable energy is indicative of Brazil’s leadership.
Brazil is a major global player. And I told President Dilma last night that the United States, as powerful as we are and as interested as we are in solving a whole range of international issues, recognizes we can’t do it alone. On issues like global health, we’re not going to succeed unless we’re working with Brazil and other major countries so that we can identify where there might be the outbreak of a disease, how we prevent it from turning into a pandemic. If we want to be successful on climate change, on countering terrorism, on making sure that we are reducing extreme poverty around the globe — all the major countries have to be involved in that process. And Brazil we consider to be an absolutely indispensable partner in these efforts.
With respect to trust, I will say that President Rousseff and I have had an excellent relationship since she took office. I trust her completely. She’s always been very candid and frank with me about the interest of the Brazilian people and how we can work together. She’s delivered on what she’s promised. When we met in Panama, we discussed, for example, the defense cooperation agreements that were just mentioned. She got those through Congress. As somebody who knows something about Congresses, I know that’s never easy. So for her to use political capital in order to get that done I think is indicative of the kind of reliable partner that she is.
And so we believe that this meeting that we’ve had this week builds on a series of steps that have continued to deepen cooperation between our two countries. There are still going to be differences occasionally, but that’s true with every one of our close friends and allies. No country is going to have identical interests. There will always be some frictions. But our common values, the strong people-to-people relations that we have, the fact that we are the largest countries in the hemisphere with similar histories — I think all that means that we should be very strong partners for years to come.
PRESIDENT ROUSSEFF: (As interpreted.) Well, I believe that part of my answer was given by President Obama, and I thank him for that. But I’d like to still make the following remark. Countries do go through crises and difficulties. It’s just natural. And the fact that countries experience difficulties or crises should not entail a lesser role for any country, especially because a country can only be said to be a great country if it is able to successfully overcome difficulties. That applies to countries, to people. It applies to everything in life — one’s braveness to overcome difficulties, challenges, and face up to them, and still sustain and uphold the commitment towards one’s people and country.
It also applies to relations with countries such as the U.S. and the rest of the world. These are essential relations. I think Brazil and the U.S. have a great deal in common. We are two countries that have a hallmark in our history, something that we actually had to fight to overcome. I’m talking about the blemish of slavery. We have large black populations in our two countries. We are countries marked by a very significant ethnic and multicultural variety in our population makeup. And that is a major asset, the wonderful heritage in our population. The same is true for the U.S.
We are also two strong democracies. Brazil, just as is the case of the United States — and I even congratulated President Obama for having overcome the crisis that struck this country back in 2008 and 2009 — likewise, Brazil will overcome the effects of the current crisis that strikes Brazil. And we will do so very surefootedly, very decisively with a great sense of commitment.
More than that, we will not only resume growth, but we will uphold and ensure continuity of all of the gains and achievements that we have established in the past 12 years — in the course of the past 12 years. And we will make sure that these gains multiply into the future. We truly want to build a predominantly middle-class country. I think the efforts to reduce inequality are a major gain, and we must fight to preserve those gains.
Q Thank you, Mr. President. I hope you don’t mind if I ask a multi-part question. The first one being on Greece. I would be remiss if I didn’t ask about the prospect of a financial crisis in Europe. And just in layman’s terms, in language that Americans can understand, I just want to ask simply: Is a financial crisis in Greece capable of bringing down the global economy?
And separately, sir, I wanted to ask you about what some people are calling your best week ever. Last week, you had two Supreme Court decisions supportive of the Affordable Care Act and of gay rights. You also delivered a speech down in Charleston that was pretty warmly received. It seems that you’ve built up some political capital for the remaining months of your presidency. I’m curious how you want to use it. What hard things do you want to tackle at this point?
And, President Rousseff, if I may ask you, you extended an invitation to the President to join you at the Olympics in Rio next year. The terrorist group ISIS has shown and willingness and capacity to carry out terrorist attacks around the world. What preparations are you making to make sure that the Olympic Games are safe? And are you concerned about that happening in Rio?
Thank you very much, Madam President.
PRESIDENT OBAMA: On Greece, this is a situation that we’ve been monitoring throughout the year. As I think most people are aware there has been an ongoing crisis in Greece, dating back to 2009-2010. And it’s something that I’ve been deeply involved with periodically, working with our European partners.
It is an issue of substantial concern. It is an issue primarily of concern to Europe. Essentially what you have here is a country that is — has gone through some very difficult economic times, needs to find a path towards growth and a path to stay in the Eurozone. And what we’ve been encouraging both the Greek government and our European partners to do is to continue to negotiate and find a pathway towards a resolution.
It is also important for us to make sure that we plan for any contingency, and that we work with the European Central Bank and other international institutions to make sure that some of the bumps that may occur in the financial markets, and that have already occurred, are smoothed out.
In layman’s terms for the American people, this is not something that we believe will have a major shock to the system. But obviously, it’s very painful for the Greek people, and it can have a significant effect on growth rates in Europe. And if Europe is not growing the way it needs to grow, that has an impact on us; it has an impact on Brazil. Those are major export markets. And that can have a dampening effect on the entire world economy.
So it’s something that we are monitoring. It’s something that we spend a lot of time on. Jack Lew has been on the phone fairly consistently over the last several months. I’ve spoken to my European counterparts encouraging them to find a path towards resolution. So it’s something that we take seriously, but it’s not something that I think should prompt overreactions. And so far, I think the markets have properly factored in the risks involved.
In terms of my best week — now, my best week, I will tell you, was marrying Michelle. That was a really good week. Malia and Sasha being born, excellent weeks. (Laughter.)
Q Good thing you remembered those.
PRESIDENT OBAMA: Yes. There was a game where I scored 27 points. (Laughter.) That was a pretty good week. I’ve had some good weeks in my life, I will tell you. And I’m blessed to have had those.
I think last week was gratifying because, number one, we were able to get a package of trade legislation that I believe will serve the American people, American workers, and American businesses well going into the future. It gives us the opportunity to negotiate high-standards agreements that have enforceable labor and environmental provisions. It was a tough fight because there were a lot of folks in my own party who viewed this as accelerating some of the damaging or frightening trends around globalization that have taken place over the last several decades. My argument to them has consistently been that we’re not going to stop globalization. We have to shape it in a way that helps people, and that these are tools that are going to help us do that. But being able to get that done was very important.
The Affordable Care Act, as I said before, the results I think speak for themselves. We have the lowest uninsured rate that we’ve had since we started keeping records. It’s worked better, cost less than even supporters anticipated.
And if we can get some governors — that have been holding out and resisting expanding Medicaid primarily for political reasons — to think about what they can do for their citizens who don’t have health insurance but could get it very easily if state governments acted, then we could see even more improvement over time.
My remarks at Charleston were heartfelt. It wasn’t a celebration. It was, I think, a reflection on the consistent challenge of race in this country and how we can find a path towards a better way. And I was gratified to see not only the incredible response of the families who had been affected by this tragedy, but by the response of people like Governor Haley in how they viewed the issue of the Confederate flag. As I said on Friday, I think it doesn’t solve all our problems. But what it does is signify a sense of empathy and recognition that I think is always the start of progress.
So, in many ways, last week was simply a culmination of a lot of work that we’ve been doing since I came into office. How am I going to spend whatever political capital that I’ve built up? The list is long. And my instructions to my team and my instructions to myself have always been that we are going to squeeze every last ounce of progress that we can make when I have the privilege — as long as I have the privilege of holding this office.
We announced overtime rules that I’m going to be talking about more this week. That’s going to give a raise to 5 million people, potentially, in this country who really deserve it. I want to see if we can get bipartisan work done with Congress around rebuilding our infrastructure. Brazil just talked about their rebuilding of highways and roads and ports and bridges. You know what, we’ve got the same work to do and we need to put people back to work there.
I am really interested in the possibilities, the prospect of bipartisan legislation around the criminal justice system — something that I think directly speaks to some of the themes I mentioned on Friday. And we’ve seen some really interesting leadership from some unlikely Republican legislators very sincerely concerned about making progress there.
I want to keep on making progress on job training and making sure that the idea of two years of free community college starts taking root. And the list is long. And what we’re going to do is just keep on hammering away at all the issues that I think are going to have an impact on the American people. Some of them will be left undone. But we’re going to try to make progress on every single one of them.
And I’ve always said one of the things I’ve learned in this presidency is that there are going to be ups and there are going to be downs, but as long as my focus and my team’s focus is on what is going to make a difference in the lives of ordinary Americans; are we going to give them more opportunity so that if they work hard, they can get ahead; are we going to make this a more inclusive economy, a more inclusive society, a more fair, just society — if that’s our North Star and we keep on tacking in that direction, we’re going to make progress. And I feel pretty excited about it. So I might see if we can make next week even better. (Laughter.)
Q Another press conference?
PRESIDENT OBAMA: I love press conferences. It’s my press team that’s always holding me back. (Laughter.) I want to talk to you guys every day. (Laughter.) Sorry, Josh. (Laughter.)
PRESIDENT ROUSSEFF: We take the issue of security in large events very seriously. We take the question of security in large-scale events as a very serious issue, which means that we involve all of those bodies or agencies that can and will ensure proper security during the upcoming Olympics. They include the armed forces, the federal police service, and all of the state-level police bodies in the state of Rio de Janeiro.
We already have experience in the public security arena because last year we organized and staged the World Soccer Cup, and we had to provide security not only to just one city — rather, we had to cover the whole country. And there was not one single action that was left uncontrolled in the 12 different host cities of the World Cup in Brazil, thereby establishing a very effective control system by means of command-and-control centers, as well as monitoring control centers, covering all activities including the displacement of athletes as well as high-ranking government officials and authorities.
So we followed up on and ensured proper security conditions to all of those steps. And that is why I am certain that we will be in a position to ensure absolute security during the Olympics, just as was the case during last year’s World Soccer Cup.
I actually believe that the upcoming 2016 Olympics to be held next June/July in Rio will be a unique and special occasion because it will bring together the joy of the Brazilians and the beauty of Rio. Of course, each country tends to think that they have the world’s best city. But I think Rio de Janeiro is indeed the world’s best and most beautiful city.
So the Olympics will bring together excellent organizational capabilities and also the wonderful ability of Brazil to welcome and receive visitors and athletes. And all of those who wish to come to Brazil, you have a standing invitation to come to the Olympics because we will certainly ensure not only proper security conditions, but also we will make sure you will be able to enjoy beautiful and great celebration during the upcoming Olympics.
Let me now call up our São Paulo Daily Newspaper reporter for the second question.
Q Petrobras, our state-owned oil giant, is being sued by many American investors who lost millions of dollars, and is being investigated by the Department of Justice because of allegations of corruption. Is it an issue of concern?
PRESIDENT OBAMA: I make it a policy not to comment on active cases that are working their way through the justice system, partly because the people here in the United States know that the lawyers work for me and I want to make sure that we appear impartial. I’m not familiar with all the details of the case, so I’ll decline to comment on the specifics.
I will make a general statement — that I have had the opportunity to work with President Rousseff on the Open Government Initiative that we’ve been trying to mobilize internationally, and Brazil has been a great partner in that process. That the more we can create accountability and transparency in our government systems, the better off we’re going to be.
And that takes work. It takes time. But Brazil has been a strong partner with us in that process, and I hope that both countries can continue to make progress on that front.
PRESIDENT ROUSSEFF: (As interpreted.) I would like to highlight the fact that Petrobras is indeed one of the major oil-producing and oil-exploring companies in the oil and gas industry. Petrobras has more than 60,000 employees. Some employees working for Petrobras did engage in corruption or acts of corruption; therefore, the investigation of course that is going on has been going on by the federal prosecutor’s office, and they’re being sued by that office.
The circumstantial evidence that is available from the prosecutors are pretty substantial; the evidence is pretty substantial, circumstantially. So what I’m trying to say is that all legal measures that may possibly be taken against or about Petrobras will certainly have to take into account that acts of corruption were practiced within Petrobras, yes, but it does not involve 100 percent of the company and all staff members. So it therefore follows that those who did practice acts of corruption be held accountable and be punished.
The people who actually engaged in these acts of corruption should be punished to then know what will happen in terms of the corporate processes. But the good news is about Petrobras is that it is a strong company, very well managed today, with proper governance, processes, and compliance processes well in place and properly adjusted.
Were that not the case, how can you — or how could you possibly understand that it has come to a production level of 800,000 barrels a day. Furthermore, this year it was awarded the so-called Oscar of the oil industry — oil and gas industry by the OTC. The innovation award was granted to Petrobras this year. So Petrobras is a corporation that is full blast. It is a fully operational company, not on the contrary.
Now, as regards your second question, I have never appointed, nor have I dismissed ministers that may have been appointed or dismissed by the press or by the media. That being the case, I will await until all facts and events be properly looked into and disclosed before I come to an assessment. But at least in principle I think it is important and necessary that all of us have access to the same information.
The Brazilian government does not have access to the court records. Strangely enough, there was this selective leakage of information supposedly or allegedly stemming from the dockets or the court records. So apparently people are free to say whatever they want. And those who are accused have no way of defending themselves because they don’t really know exactly what they are being charged with.
We are a country marked by a democratic process. We were able to put an end to all of the arbitrary arrangements and violation of rights of the past. In the case of Brazil, we had a very strong military dictatorship. So given our track record, we should really enshrine the right to defense, and we should stick to the principle of sentencing only when evidence is available, not the other way around.
I mean, people have the right of proving that they are innocent. I mean, only those who accuse are the ones who should provide evidence of guilt. I mean, that’s the underlying basic principle of Western civilization that we all share. That’s what we talk about when we talk about democracy. I mean, people’s right to defense — to a fair defense.
And also the burden of proof; the burden of proof lies on the accusing party. And it should be, of course, a grounded type of evidence, not just allegations, speculation that does not ensure access to all of the court records. That would be medieval — it would send us back to the Middle Ages. That’s not what we do in Brazil today.
PRESIDENT OBAMA: Jim, about last week, I had a chance to do the Rose Garden celebration of the Court decision around same-sex marriage. I did not have a chance to comment on how good the White House looked in rainbow colors. (Laughter.) That made it a really good week. To see people gathered in the evening outside on a beautiful summer night, and to feel whole and to feel accepted, and to feel that they had a right to love — that was pretty cool. That was a good thing.
Q No regrets on (inaudible) —
PRESIDENT OBAMA: That was a good thing. The only bad part about it was I couldn’t go out and peek at it myself because then I would have to clear out all the people — or Secret Service would have. (Laughter.) So I could only reflect on it from a television screen. That’s a moment worth savoring.
Thank you very much, everybody.
Q Did you discuss Venezuela?
PRESIDENT OBAMA: We did. (Laughter.)
END 1:10 P.M. EDT