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Lula in Berlin for first Brazil-Germany talks in eight years

Published 12/03/2023, 02:06 AM
Updated 12/03/2023, 10:40 AM
© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: Brazil's President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva speaks during a meeting on installation of the G20 National Commission, with his ministers, president of the Central Bank and president of the Supreme Court at the Planalto Palace in Brasilia, Brazi

By Andreas Rinke and Sarah Marsh

BERLIN (Reuters) -Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva landed in Berlin on Sunday for the first Brazilian-German government consultations in eight years as Latin America and Europe's largest economies seek to revive ties.

Lula has jetted across the globe since returning to office in January, trying to restore Brazil's standing on the global stage after years of diplomatic isolation under his far-right predecessor Jair Bolsonaro, to mixed results.

He is expected to have dinner on Sunday with fellow leftist, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, before the consultations on Monday.

Scholz was the first foreign leader to visit Lula in Brazil, only weeks after his inauguration.

The German Chancellor has been on a quest since taking office in late 2021 to improve ties with the Global South. Germany also considers Brazil a key partner in its bid to diversify its trade, in part to reduce its reliance on China, and plug a gap in skilled labour.

Both countries are pushing for a quick trade deal between the European Union and Mercosur, South America's major trading bloc, over which Brazil currently presides.

"It is known that we support and strive for this agreement and also want it to be concluded really swiftly," a spokesperson for the German economy ministry said on Friday.

A trade treaty was agreed in principle in 2019 after two decades of talks, but additional environmental commitments demanded by the EU led Brazil and Argentina to seek new concessions that prolonged negotiations.

"Free-trade agreements open access to new markets that in particular the export-oriented German economy can benefit from," said Lukas Koehler, a senior lawmaker with the Free Democrats (FDP), junior partner in Scholz's three-way coalition.

German exports to Brazil, however, have grown by only 3% in the past ten years, compared with 38% and 87% for U.S. and Chinese exports to Brazil respectively, according to the Latin America Committee of German Business.

© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: Brazil's President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva speaks during a meeting on installation of the G20 National Commission, with his ministers, president of the Central Bank and president of the Supreme Court at the Planalto Palace in Brasilia, Brazil November 23, 2023. REUTERS/Ueslei Marcelino/File Photo

Scholz will be hoping to avoid a scenario such as in January, when his visit to Brazil was overshadowed by differences over Russia's invasion of Ukraine. This time, the news conference on Monday afternoon could highlight their differences over the Israel-Hamas war.

Lula last month said that Israel was "committing terrorism" against Palestinians "by not taking into account that children are not at war, that women are not at war". Scholz, by contrast, has avoided such criticism and continuously backed Israel's "right to defend itself".

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