Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro was yesterday meeting with Chinese leaders, including Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平), as the Latin American leader looks to balance his tilt toward the US.
At a forum in Beijing, Bolsonaro said that China and Brazil “were born to walk together. I now shake President Xi’s hand as a sign that our governments are completely aligned, in a way that reaches beyond our commercial and business relationship.”
At the same event, Chinese Vice Premier Hu Chunhua (胡春華) said that China was willing to increase its imports of agricultural and industrial goods from Brazil, and that the two nations can also deepen cooperation in areas such as infrastructure.
Bolsonaro was later to meet Xi as part of a three-day state visit to the Chinese capital. He was also to meet with Chinese Premier Li Keqiang (李克強) and Chinese National People’s Congress Standing Committee Chairman Li Zhanshu (栗戰書), the No. 2 and No. 3-ranked members of the Chinese Communist Party.
Bolsonaro on Thursday arrived in Beijing facing a looming question of whether Brazil should allow Huawei Technologies to build its 5G network. The decision risks upsetting the delicate balancing act Bolsonaro has so far managed between China and the US, its first and second-biggest trading partners.
Xi is expected to pay a reciprocal visit to Brazil next month while in South America for APEC forum meetings in Chile.
China’s vast appetite for commodities helped drive up total trade between the two countries to US$113 billion last year and the South American nation is its eighth-biggest trading partner.
Beijing will probably grant more approvals in the next few weeks for Brazilian meat plants to export to China, Brazilian Minister of Agriculture, Livestock and Supply Tereza Cristina said in a video posted on her Twitter on Thursday.
Beijing last month granted permission to 25 additional Brazilian beef, pork and poultry plants to ship to China, raising the number of approved facilities to 89.
While Bolsonaro was being accompanied by his foreign and agriculture ministers for this week’s state visit, members of his economic team are to arrive at a later date.
“The absence of senior economic advisers suggests there won’t be any major announcements besides a possible increase in commodity deals,” said Hussein Kalout, a Harvard University political scientist and one of Brazil’s leading academics on international relations.
About 40 percent of Brazilian exports, mostly commodities, head to China. Chinese companies also invest heavily in Brazil, which is seeking foreign investors to participate in its privatization program to accelerate its sluggish economic growth.
Bolsonaro has long been a fan of US President Donald Trump and he expressed skepticism over Beijing’s investment prior to his election victory last year, saying that Chinese were allowed to “buy in Brazil, but not buy Brazil.”
However, Bolsonaro has since toned down some of his criticism and adopted a pragmatic approach.
In May, he sent Brazilian Vice President Hamilton Mourao to smooth over any awkwardness with Beijing. While there, Mourao met with Huawei’s billionaire founder, Ren Zhengfei (任正非), and said that Brazil had no intention of restricting the firm’s activities in the country.
The company has been active in Brazil for more than 20 years.
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