Brazil's Bolsonaro to meet China's Xi for first time at G20

BRASILIA (Reuters) - Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro, who criticized China last year for “buying” up his country, will meet with Chinese President Xi Jinping for the first time on the sidelines of this week’s G20 meeting in Japan, his office said on Monday.

Brazil's President Jair Bolsonaro attends a ceremony of hoisting the national flag in front the Planalto Palace in Brasilia, Brazil June 18, 2019. REUTERS/Adriano Machado

Bolsonaro, a far-right firebrand, has softened his stance on Brazil’s largest trading partner since taking office in January and will meet with Xi for 40 minutes on Friday morning before the summit of leaders of the world’s 20 largest economies kicks off in Osaka, according to the schedule released by his office.

A representative of China’s embassy in Brazil said the two countries were discussing a bilateral meeting, although the details had yet to be agreed to. Given the packed schedule at the G20, any bilateral meeting would likely be informal and brief, the diplomat said, speaking on background.

China is by far the largest buyer of Brazilian soybeans and iron ore, and Brazil hopes to upgrade its commodities exports to include products with greater added value.

Bolsonaro expressed concern about Chinese domination during his election campaign. Citing the purchase of electrical assets by Chinese companies, he complained that “China isn’t buying in Brazil, China is buying Brazil.”

But he has dropped his criticisms as the reality of Brazil’s dependence on the Chinese market set in.

His vice president, retired general Hamilton Mourao, visited Beijing in May to resume high-level talks that had stalled under the previous government. Mourao’s visit followed Agriculture Minister Tereza Cristina’s mission to China seeking to widen food sales to China.

Mourao met in Beijing with Huawei Technologies Co Ltd Chief Executive Ren Zhengfei and later told journalists that Brazil had no plans to follow the United States in barring the Chinese telecom company’s participation when Latin America’s largest country launches its 5G network next year.

Washington has asked countries to reject Huawei technology in the development of new mobile phone networks due to security concerns.

Bolsonaro and Xi are expected to discuss a date for the Brazilian leader’s planned visit to Beijing later this year, before Xi visits Brazil in November for the summit of the BRICS leading emerging economies.

Reporting by Anthony Boadle and Jake Spring; Editing by Richard Chang