Brazil’s president will try to strengthen trade relations and bring in more Chinese investment 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 due to meet his Chinese counterpart in Beijing.
Brazilian beef sales to China were voluntarily halted on February 23 by Brazilian authorities following the discovery of an atypical case of mad cow disease.
The resumption of trading on Thursday comes a day after Brazil’s Agriculture Minister Carlos Favaro arrived in Beijing on Sunday ahead of a trip by President Da Silva, better known as Lula, on Sunday.
“The Chinese government has decided to lift the ban on Brazilian beef” following a meeting between Favaro and China’s customs chief Yu Jianhua, the Brazilian ministry said in a statement. So far, the Chinese government has not commented on the announcement.
Last year, China spent $8 billion on Brazilian beef, accounting for nearly nine percent of 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 in the Chinese capital on Tuesday, hopes to expand trade ties and seek new Chinese investment during his trip.
China is already Brazil’s largest export market, with bilateral trade exceeding $150 billion by 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 today is the largest recipient of Chinese investment in Latin America, driven by spending on high-voltage power transmission lines and oil exploration.
Lula, who narrowly won a 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 that balances ties with its major trading partners despite rising tensions between the two .
“Brazil must take a flexible and pragmatic stance in this dispute between China and the United States,” said Brazil’s Senator Hamilton Mourao, who met Xi in Beijing in 2019 as Vice President.
Lula brought Brazil closer to China, traveling to Beijing twice during his two presidential terms from 2003 to 2010.
This visit comes after a period of shaky 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 traveling with a large delegation made up of half a dozen ministers, plus governors, legislators and 240 business leaders, more than a third from Brazil’s agricultural 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.