Thursday, January 19, 2012

Open for business

US President Barack Obama's visit today to Walt Disney World is as much an appeal to Brazilians and their dollars as it is Florida voters and their jobs. But it was a brief one, highlighted by a speech that lasted just 13 minutes.

As expected, Obama announced he intends to expand the U.S. State Department's Global Entry Program for trusted international visitors; expand and accelerate visa application processing for such countries as Brazil, India and China; and attempt to add more countries to the Visa Waiver Program that allows foreigners from 36 countries to skip the visa process.

The moves all are designed to make it easier for international travelers to visit the United States. In Florida and at Disney World, the issue focuses mostly on Brazilian travelers, whose visa applications are backlogged. Florida and Disney World are among the favorite destinations of free-spending Brazilians, who spend an average of $5,000 each per visit.

"We've got the best product to sell. I mean look at where we are," Obama declared, gesturing to Cinderella's Castle behind him.

"People want to come here," he said. "So this is what it's all about – telling the world that America is open for business," he added.

Obama assured the crowd that the United States would continue to "protect our borders" even as it fosters a more welcoming environment for tourists.

Obama began his brief speech at about 12:40, starting with a recognition of Mickey Mouse. "It's always nice to meet someone who has bigger ears than me," he said.

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