By Duncan Mackay

Barack_Obama_in_Rio_March_20_2011March 22 - A new $1 billion (£610 million) incentive scheme for Brazilian companies involved in projects for the 2014 World Cup and 2016 Olympics and Paralympics in Rio de Janeiro has been launched by the United States Export-Import Bank following a visit to the country by President Barack Obama.

Obama's visit there was partly to drum up business for US companies, adding that they want to "be one of your best customers" when Brazil starts pumping oil from offshore reserves.

Fred Hochberg, the President of the Bank, said when launching the new initiative that the money must be used to purchase products made by US companies.

"I'm hopeful that we can use this first $1 billion for infrastructure as the beginning of building our portfolio and building our work with Brazilian companies," he said.

US Commerce Secretary Gray Locke also met privately with representatives from FIESP (Federacao das Industrias do Estado de Sao Paulo), which represents many of Brazil's leading companies.

"There are many opportunities to increase bilateral trade and it will happen with the 2014 World Cup and the Olympic Games in 2016," Locke said.

"We can help with the infrastructure."

Hochberg hopes the new financing serves as a beginning of a period of faster growth for Ex-Im Bank's operations in Brazil.

"This should be only the beginning, so that the financing to Brazilian companies reach a higher level," he said.

During his visit, in a speech in Rio's Municipal theatre, Obama said his country intends to help Brazil in the projects for the Games.

"We need world-class infrastructures, which is why US companies want to help you build and prepare this city for an Olympic success," he said.

Obama had been a high-profile backer of Chicago's bid to host the 2016 Olympics and Paralympics but was powerless to prevent Rio winning the campaign despite showing up at the International Olympic Committee's (IOC) Session at Copenhagen in October 2009.

"As you probably know Rio was not my first option for the Games," he said.

"But, as the Olympics will not be hosted in Chicago, I think there is not a better place than Rio do Janeiro.

"I will come back in 2016 to attend the Games."

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