China to decide new date for Brazil’s Lula visit, agreements postponed: minister

(Reuters) – Brazil’s Agriculture Minister Carlos Favaro said on Sunday that the Chinese government would decide on a new date for Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva’s visit to the country, adding that the signing of agreements between Beijing and Brasilia has been postponed.

“All government actions are postponed, including those of the Agriculture Ministry,” Favaro, who arrived in China last week, said during a news conference in Beijing.

“When the Chinese government is ready, with an available schedule, the visit will certainly be rescheduled, and we will return to continue signing all memorandums and agreements.”

The Brazilian government announced on Saturday that leftist President Lula, who took office in January, had canceled his high-profile trip to China, scheduled for March 27-31, after being diagnosed with bacterial and viral bronchopneumonia caused by influenza A.

The visit, which was to include a meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping on Tuesday, was viewed as a significant effort by the new president to enhance relations with Brazil’s largest trading partner, following a period of rocky relations under former President Jair Bolsonaro, who campaigned for office using anti-China rhetoric that continued into his first years in government.

According to Favaro, there is a more fraternal climate with Lula’s return to the presidency, which “opens commercial opportunities.”

He also emphasized that his trip to China had already secured an important gain, with Beijing approving the resumption of imports of Brazilian beef and authorizing new plants. Sales to China were voluntarily halted by Brazilian authorities on Feb. 23, following the discovery of an atypical case of mad cow disease.

The minister said that agreements between Brazilian and Chinese companies are still expected to be announced on March 29. About 240 Brazilian business leaders were initially expected in China, over a third from Brazil’s farm sector, which sends the majority of its beef, soybeans, and wood pulp to China.

(Reporting by Marcela Ayres in Brasilia; Editing by Andrea Ricci)