‘Brazil is back!’ Lula says during state visit to China
President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva promised Thursday that “Brazil is back!” during a state visit to China aimed at strengthening trade ties and winning support for his push for peace in Ukraine.
The veteran leftist, who arrived in Shanghai on Wednesday night, is seeking to reposition Brazil as a key global player after four years of relative isolation under his predecessor Jair Bolsonaro.
“The time when Brazil was absent from major world decisions is in the past,” Lula said at a ceremony to inaugurate his political ally Dilma Rousseff as president of the BRICS New Development Bank (NDB).
“We are back on the international stage, after an inexplicable absence.”
Lula will spend Thursday in Shanghai before heading to the Chinese capital to meet his counterpart Xi Jinping, with whom he is expected to discuss the Ukraine war on Friday.
Both China and Brazil have positioned themselves as mediators in the conflict, despite Western concerns that they are overly cosy with Russian President Vladimir Putin.
– Trade ties –
The Shanghai leg of Lula’s trip has highlighted another key goal of the visit — to deepen economic links between the two countries.
China is Brazil’s biggest export market, buying tens of billions of dollars worth of soybeans, beef and iron ore.
Rousseff, a former leader of Brazil, will head the NDB, a multilateral lender jointly set up by Brazil, China, Russia, India and South Africa, until 2025.
After her inauguration ceremony, Lula visited a research centre run by Chinese telecom giant Huawei.
Video on the official Brazilian presidential Twitter account showed Lula being greeted by musicians in traditional dress playing classical Chinese instruments.
Huawei’s chairman then walked him through an exhibition showcasing the company’s extensive presence in Brazil — a contrast with the United States, where companies are effectively barred from doing business with the firm.
Lula was also set to meet the head of China’s biggest electronic carmaker BYD, which said in October that it planned to set up a vehicle manufacturing plant in northern Brazil’s Bahia after Ford Motors closed its factory there.
The company is already making electric buses and cars for the Latin American market in Brazil.
– Smoothing relations –
Back in office from January after having led Brazil from 2003 to 2010, Lula is seeking to smooth relations with China, after ties deteriorated under Bolsonaro.
He was initially scheduled to make the trip in late March but had to postpone it after coming down with pneumonia.
About 40 high-level officials are accompanying him on the rescheduled visit, including cabinet ministers, governors and members of Congress.
In a delicate balancing act, he is also seeking closer ties with the United States, Brazil’s second-biggest trading partner.
His visit with Xi comes after a high-profile White House meeting with President Joe Biden in February.