President Joe Biden and his Brazilian counterpart, Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, launched an initiative to improve labor conditions in their countries, as the US looks to bolster ties with its South American neighbor.
(Bloomberg) — President Joe Biden and his Brazilian counterpart, Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, launched an initiative to improve labor conditions in their countries, as the US looks to bolster ties with its South American neighbor.
“Over the last few days, the nations of the world have talked about climate change, sustainable development, food security, economic resilience. We know our progress on these challenges depends on our workers,” Biden said Wednesday at an event on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly. “We have to empower them.”
The partnership aims to help workers address what the two leaders consider central challenges, such as the transition to the gig economy and clean-energy technology. It will also look at way to stop worker exploitation — including forced labor, child labor, and workplace discrimination against women, LGBTQ persons, and racial and ethnic groups. Greater scrutiny will be placed on accountability in public and private investments, according to US officials.
Brazilian authorities have said Biden and Lula are lockstep in their support for organized labor. Biden calls himself the most pro-union president in American history and has taken steps to strengthen labor unions, a key part of his electoral coalition before the 2024 election. At the same time, he is facing an auto-workers strike that is testing the limits of his union support.
Lula’s labor minister, Luiz Marinho, visited with United Auto Workers union members while in the US.
“In the face of complex global challenges, from climate change to rising poverty levels and economic inequality, we must put workers at the center of our policy solutions,” the leaders said in a joint statement obtained by Bloomberg News. “We must stand with workers and empower them to drive the innovation we urgently need to secure our futures.”
Read More: Lula Has a Date With Zelenskiy in NYC Despite Past Acrimony
Biden administration officials stressed the relationship with Brazil is a broad global partnership on issues such as non-proliferation of nuclear weapons and food security. The nations are the two largest food exporters in the world.
One administration official pointed out that the US president encouraged more leaders to “step up” in his United Nations General Assembly speech on Tuesday, and said Biden and Lula have a mutual interest in safeguarding the rights of working families.
The two nations intend to expand their labor partnership with more countries, aides said.
Biden on Wednesday called their announcement “an invitation to every global leader and every labor organization to join us and commit to a better future.”
This is the second time Biden has met in person with Lula after he returned to the Brazilian presidency earlier this year. The first encounter was at the White House in February. Brazil will host the Group of 20 summit next year.
Ahead of their meeting, Biden administration officials said the presidents were likely to talk about Lula’s criticism of the US embargo on Cuba. The US is also seeking to move Brazil closer to allies helping Ukraine fight Russia’s invasion.
Lula also plans to meet with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy on Wednesday. He has refused to take sides in the war, and has boasted of having a strong relationship Russian President Vladimir Putin, who is not attending the General Assembly.
Gaining even tacit support from Lula would be a major success for Zelenskiy, given the Brazilian leader’s place as one of the highest-profile leaders of the Global South.
(Updates with new information, leaders’ statements throughout)
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