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LATIN AMERICA | 14-04-2023 13:45

Xi tells Lula China's development will create opportunities for Brazil

Chinese leader tells Brazilian counterpart that Beijing views relations between the two countries as a diplomatic high priority.

President Xi Jinping told his Brazilian counterpart Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva on Friday that China's development would create new opportunities for Brazil, as they met in Beijing and affirmed their close economic and diplomatic ties.

Lula's visit to his country's top trading partner has focused on strengthening those connections, as well as spreading the message that "Brazil is back" as a key player on the global stage.

The veteran leftist was greeted by Xi on Friday afternoon at a red carpet ceremony outside Beijing's Great Hall of the People, where a military band played the national anthems of Brazil and China. 

Xi told Lula in the meeting that followed China viewed relations between the two countries as a diplomatic high priority, according to a readout from China's Foreign Ministry that was carried by state media. 

"As comprehensive strategic partners, China and Brazil share extensive common interests," he said. 

"China will pursue high-quality development... and promote high-standard opening-up. This will unlock new opportunities for Brazil and countries around the world," Xi said, according to the readout.

 

Ditching the dollar?

Lula earlier took aim at the US dollar, criticising its ubiquitous use in almost all global trade transactions.

His government recently announced a deal with Beijing to trade in their own currencies, ditching the dollar as an intermediary.

Under the deal announced in March, Brazil and China have named two banks – one in each country – to conduct their massive trade and financial transactions by directly exchanging yuan for reais and vice-versa.

China has similar deals with Russia, Pakistan and several other countries.

"Who decided the dollar would be the [world's] currency?" Lula said in Shanghai at a ceremony to inaugurate his political ally Dilma Rousseff as president of the development bank set up by the BRICS nations Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa.

"Why can't a bank like the BRICS bank have a currency to finance trade between Brazil and China, between Brazil and other BRICS countries?... Today, countries have to chase after dollars to export, when they could be exporting in their own currencies."

Lula also had strong words for the International Monetary Fund, alluding to accusations the IMF forces overly harsh spending cuts on cash-strapped countries such as Brazil's neighbour Argentina in exchange for bailout loans.

"No bank should be asphyxiating countries' economies the way the IMF is doing now with Argentina, or the way they did with Brazil for a long time and every third-world country," he said.

"No leader can work with a knife to their throat because [their country] owes money."

 

'Brazil is back!'

Lula, who took office in January, is looking to reposition Brazil as a global go-between and deal broker, seeking friendly ties across the board after four years of relative isolation under his far-right predecessor, Jair Bolsonaro.

The Brazilian leader earlier attended a wreath-laying ceremony at the Monument to the People's Heroes in Tiananmen Square and met Chinese Premier Li Qiang.

"Brazil is back!" Lula promised in Shanghai when he arrived on Wednesday night.

"The time when Brazil was absent from major world decisions is in the past. We are back on the international stage, after an inexplicable absence."

Lula and Xi were also expected to discuss the Ukraine war in their meeting. 

Brazil has positioned itself as a mediator in the conflict, while China is under pressure to do more. There are concerns in the West that they are both overly cosy with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Both countries have refused to join Western nations in imposing sanctions on Russia for its invasion.

Lula, who led Brazil from 2003 to 2010, visited US President Joe Biden in February.

He is seeking to smooth relations with China after ties deteriorated under Bolsonaro.

The 77-year-old president was initially scheduled to make the trip in late March but had to postpone it after coming down with pneumonia.

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by Peter Catterall, AFP

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