Monday, March 4, 2024

China lifts Brazilian beef import ban ahead of Lula’s visit

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Brazil’s president will seek to boost trade ties and secure greater Chinese investments during his visit to China next week.

China has agreed to immediately resume imports of Brazilian beef, Brazil’s agriculture ministry said, just days before President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva is set to meet his Chinese counterpart in Beijing.

Sales of Brazilian beef to China were voluntarily halted by Brazilian authorities on February 23 following the discovery of an atypical case of mad cow disease.

The resumption of trade on Thursday comes a day after Brazilian Agriculture Minister Carlos Favaro arrived in Beijing ahead of a trip by President da Silva, commonly known as Lula, on Sunday.

“The Chinese government decided to lift the ban on Brazilian beef” after a meeting between Favaro and Chinese customs chief Yu Jianhua, the Brazilian ministry said in a statement. So far, China’s government has not commented on the announcement.

Last year, China spent $8bn on Brazilian beef, amounting to almost nine percent of its imports from Latin America’s largest economy.

Favaro, who met Yu in Beijing, said the decision was “a step forward for Brazil”.

Lula, who is expected to meet with Chinese President Xi Jinping on Tuesday in China’s capital, is hoping to expand trade relations and seek new Chinese investments during his trip.

China is already Brazil’s largest export market, with bilateral trade surpassing $150bn in 2022.

Brazil mainly exports soybean products, iron and its derivatives, oil products and beef to China.

China also overtook the United States as Brazil’s top trading partner in 2009, and Brazil is today the largest recipient of Chinese investment in Latin America, driven by spending on high-tension electricity transmission lines and oil extraction.

Lula, who won a close runoff election against far-right former Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro in October, will be the first foreign leader to visit Xi since he secured a precedent-breaking third term as China’s president.

His trip to China also comes less than two months after Lula met with US President Joe Biden at the White House, as Brasilia aims for a pragmatic foreign policy balancing ties with its top trading partners despite growing tensions between the two.

“Brazil has to keep a flexible and pragmatic position in this dispute between China and the United States,” said Brazilian Senator Hamilton Mourao, who as vice president met with Xi in Beijing in 2019.

Lula drew Brazil closer to China and travelled twice to Beijing during his two presidential terms from 2003 to 2010.

This visit comes after a period of rocky relations under Bolsonaro, who campaigned for office using anti-China rhetoric that continued into his first years in government, when his lawmaker son blamed China for the COVID-19 pandemic.

Lula is travelling with a large delegation that includes a half dozen cabinet ministers, plus governors, lawmakers and 240 business leaders, over a third from Brazil’s farm sector, which sends the lion’s share of its beef, soybeans and wood pulp to China.

The Brazilian leader will also visit Shanghai later in the week.

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