Brazil’s Lula meets Xi in Beijing after lashing out at US dollar, IMF

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Brazilian leader Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva is set to forge closer ties with Chinese President Xi Jinping during a meeting in Beijing on Friday, a day after he lashed out at the power of the US dollar and the IMF.

The veteran leftist, whose government recently announced a deal with Beijing to trade in their own currencies — ditching the dollar as an intermediary — is in China to boost ties with his country’s top trading partner and spread his message that “Brazil is back” as a key player on the global stage.

He was greeted by President 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. The two were due to hold talks later in the day.

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

“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 like 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 with Chinese Premier Li Qiang.

“Brazil is back!” Lula promised in Shanghai, where 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.”

One of the main topics on the agenda when Lula and Xi meet is expected to be the Ukraine war.

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 both are overly cosy with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

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

– Trade ties –

The Shanghai leg of Lula’s trip highlighted another key goal of the visit — deepening trade ties between the Asian giant and Latin America’s biggest economy.

China is Brazil’s biggest export market, buying tens of billions of dollars worth of soybeans, beef and iron ore.

Under the currency 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, instead of going through the dollar.

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

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

He is now 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.

He is travelling with a large delegation of about 40 high-level officials, including cabinet ministers, governors and members of Congress.

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Agence France-Presse (AFP) is a French international news agency headquartered in Paris, France. Founded in 1835 as Havas, it is the world's oldest news agency.

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