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U.S. VP Biden visits South America, Caribbean

May 27, 2013

Bogotá, Colombia – U.S. Vice President Joe Biden arrived in Colombia on Sunday as he launched a six-day tour that will also take him to the Caribbean island nation of Trinidad and Tobago and Brazil.

The visit –Biden’s fourth to the region since becoming vice president in January 2009 – will see him discuss bilateral, regional and global issues with key leaders.

The trip will be a chance to discuss “economic growth and development, access to energy and our ongoing collaboration on citizen security,” the White House said in a statement.

It also comes just days before Chinese President Xi Jinping plans to travel to Mexico, Costa Rica and Trinidad and Tobago on his way to a summit with U.S. President Barack Obama on June 7-8 in Rancho Mirage, California.

Senior Obama administration officials dismissed concerns that Xi’s visit and potential new Chinese investments in the region he may be announcing would undercut Washington’s commitment to Latin America.

“We don’t really see ourselves as being in competition with any particular actor in the Americas,” a senior administration official said Wednesday, speaking on condition of anonymity.

“We’re very pleased with the type of trade that we engage in throughout the Americas, a very diversified … type of trade. It’s a trade that emphasizes the value-added products from many countries throughout the region.”

Biden’s regional tour follows President Barack Obama’s recent visit to Mexico and Costa Rica.

On Monday, the U.S. vice president will meet with Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos, then visit a flower farm outside Bogotá. Cut flowers are one of Colombia’s most valuable exports, and the United States is its biggest market.

Biden landed in Bogotá just hours after the government and leftist FARC rebels announced they had reached a deal on land reform, one of the most contentious items in negotiations aimed at ending five decades of insurgency.

In Trinidad and Tobago, Biden will meet with Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar and talk with other Caribbean leaders about energy, economic integration and citizen security, the White House said.

On Wednesday, Biden will deliver a speech in Rio de Janeiro showcasing Brazil as a strategic U.S. partner, and meet with Brazilian business and community leaders.

Those meetings will include a tour of a site managed by the semi-public Brazilian oil giant Petrobras.

Biden will also meet with President Dilma Rousseff and Brazil’s vice president to “discuss ways to deepen our economic and commercial partnership,” the White House said.

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