American President Donald Trump met his Brazilian counterpart, conservative President Jair Bolsonaro, on Friday at the G20 summit in Osaka, Japan, where Bolsonaro promised to show the world that, following his election, “politics in Brazil has indeed changed.”
The White House reportedly said in a statement that among the issues the two discussed was the threat China poses to the region. Bolsonaro also had his first meeting with Chinese Communist Party leader Xi Jinping that day, as part of a larger informal summit among the five leaders of the BRICS nations (Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa).
As a presidential candidate, Bolsonaro expressed concerns that “China isn’t buying in Brazil, it is buying Brazil” and promised to “not hand our territory over to anybody.” Xi enjoyed warm relations with the leftist administrations that preceded Bolsonaro, particularly the now-imprisoned socialist former President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva. Since becoming president, however, Bolsonaro has maintained close relations with China and described the prospects for joint projects “better and better” between the two countries.
In December, Xi’s state-run media published an article declaring that, while “it may sound racist,” Brazil is culturally inferior to Han-dominated China. The Brazilian government did not respond to the bigoted statement.
Meeting jointly with the press, Trump praised Bolsonaro as “a special man” who was “very much loved by the people of Brazil,” echoing President Barack Obama’s praise for the corrupt Lula, who he once called “the most popular politician on Earth.”
“We’re with a gentleman who had one of the greatest election wins anywhere in the world, as far as I’m concerned, and he was very proud of his relationship with President Trump — President of Brazil,” Trump told reporters. “I think we can say that Brazil and the United States are as close or closer as they’ve ever been.”
Bolsonaro replied that he was a “great admirer of you … even before your election” and called the meeting a “great honor.”
“The two countries we represent have a great deal in common. We’re two major countries — great countries — and, together, can do a great deal to the benefit of our two peoples,” Bolsonaro said. “Brazil is endowed with assets that the world does not have, and I will be able to engage in talks with President Trump to establish a full partnership to the (inaudible) development of our nations.”
“I support Trump. I support the United States. I support your upcoming reelection. And I do hope that you will come to Brazil, and you have an open and standing invitation to visit Brazil, even before the upcoming election, so that we can showcase to the world that politics in Brazil has indeed changed,” the Brazilian president concluded.
Trump promised to visit Brazil and praised it as a “tremendous country with tremendous people.”
Asked if he would request Bolsonaro’s support in the ongoing trade dispute with China, Trump did not offer a direct answer, instead stating that he expected his meeting with Xi on Saturday to be “productive” and calling America “a hot country.”
While neither world leader offered specific remarks on what they discussed behind closed doors, the White House listed the socialist crisis in Venezuela, bilateral trade relations, and their mutual relationships with China as discussion topics, according to Brazil’s Folha de Sao Paulo.
“President Trump and President Bolsonaro also talked about the risks associated with Chinese activities in the West,” the White House reportedly stated.
China has aggressively attempted to expand its Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) to Latin America. The BRI is a global infrastructure plan in which China offers predatory loans to developing countries that the countries then use to pay China to build ports, railways, and roads that the country would otherwise not be able to afford. In countries that have accepted BRI projects, China has imported large numbers of Han Chinese workers, who have been accused of racist abuse against locals. When the countries can no longer pay the high-interest loans, China seizes the infrastructure it built – so China keeps the loan money (through wages) and the property it built on. When the property becomes Chinese, Beijing uses it as a justification to move troops there to protect it.
The communist regime in Cuba has been the first to vocally embrace BRI in the region.
While Trump will have to wait for Saturday, Bolsonaro has already held his first meeting with Xi at the G20 as a BRICS member nation. Bolsonaro decried “protectionist currents” in the international trade scenario, accusing them of being “a source of trade tensions and jeopardiz[ing] the stability of international trade rules.”
Brazil sells its largest share of soybeans and iron ore to China, commodities that are at play in the ongoing trade war with America.
Bolsonaro also held a meeting with German Chancellor Angela Merkel Friday, who he said could have “a lot to learn” from Brazil.
“Their [Germany] industry is still fossil, plastic, coal, and ours is not. They have a lot to learn from us, “Bolsonaro told reporters. He added that he would demand “respect for Brazil” in light of a remark Merkel previously made to media that she would lecture Bolsonaro about protecting the Amazon rain forest.
“The president of Brazil that is here is not like some previous ones, who came here to be warned [scolded] by other countries. The situation here is one of respect for Brazil,” Bolsonaro said.