Brazil’s Lula reschedules China trip for April 11-14

Brasília (AFP): Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, who last week had to cancel a visit to China after coming down with pneumonia, has rescheduled the trip to April 11-14, his office said Friday.

The veteran leftist has sought closer ties with China — Brazil’s biggest trading partner — since taking office in January.

He cancelled his original trip last Saturday, the day he was initially due to leave, after being diagnosed with what his office called “mild pneumonia.”

Now back at work, the 77-year-old made it clear the visit was a top priority, after years of strained ties with Beijing under his far-right predecessor, Jair Bolsonaro (2019-2022).

A presidential spokesman confirmed the new dates to AFP, saying the exact agenda was still being finalized.

Lula’s initial agenda included a meeting with his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping, and a high-level China-Brazil business forum that went ahead this week without him.

Like during his first two presidential terms, from 2003 to 2010, Lula is keen to position Brazil as a go-between and deal-broker on the international stage, seeking friendly ties across the board.

He has cultivated a close relationship with European leaders and US President Joe Biden, whom he visited last month.

But he has also made some in the West nervous with his overtures to the likes of China, Russia and Venezuela.

Brazil and China did a record $150.5 billion in bilateral trade last year — far more than the $88.7 billion in trade between Brazil and the United States, its second-biggest partner.

On Wednesday Brazil announced it had reached a deal with China to ditch the US dollar as an intermediary currency and trade directly in yuan and reais.

‘Brazil is back’

Lula and Xi had also been expected to discuss the war in Ukraine.

The leader of Latin America’s biggest economy hopes to promote his proposal for mediated talks to end Russia’s invasion.

Brazil, Russia and China are all members of the BRICS group of emerging economies, together with India and South Africa, and have sought to counterbalance the traditional dominance of Europe and the United States in the international arena.

Lula took office vowing “Brazil is back” on the world stage after its relative isolation during the Bolsonaro years.

However, his diplomatic stock took a hit last year when he came under fire for claiming that Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky was “as responsible” for the war as Putin.

He has also refused to join Western nations in sending weapons to Ukraine to help it defend itself.

Lula’s health has been a source of concern in recent years.

In 2011, he was diagnosed with throat cancer, shortly after leaving the presidency. He went into remission after undergoing treatment.

In November, he had surgery to remove a lesion from his vocal cords, after his trademark raspy voice grew even hoarser during his grueling 2022 election battle against Bolsonaro.