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United States and Brazil plan Biden-Lula meeting in Washington

Brazilian President-elect Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva and US officials said on Friday he was planning a trip to meet President Joe Biden at the White House before taking office on Jan. 1.

“I can confirm that we are planning a visit,” White House National Security Council spokesman John Kirby told reporters. “We look forward to welcoming President Lula here when the time comes.”

Kirby said Biden’s national security adviser Jake Sullivan will travel to Brazil on Monday to meet with Lula’s incoming team, as well as outgoing President Jair Bolsonaro’s administration.

Leftist veteran Lula defeated incumbent far-right Bolsonaro in a hard-fought election in October, returning to power after two presidential terms from 2003 to 2011.

Lula said he and Sullivan will “converse and discuss the date” for a visit to Washington — likely after Dec. 12, the day his victory will be formally ratified by Brazil’s electoral tribunal, he said at a news conference in Brasilia .

Relations between the United States and Brazil have cooled since Biden defeated former President Donald Trump, Bolsonaro’s political role model, in the 2020 US election.

But the ties look set to heat up under Lula.

Biden was one of the first world leaders to congratulate him on his election victory.

“I think we have a lot to tell each other,” Lula said.

“The United States is facing the same problems with democracy as Brazil. The damage that Trump has done to American democracy is the same that Bolsonaro has done to Brazil.”

Diplomatic issues on the table will include “US-Brazil relations, Brazil’s role in the new geopolitics (and) the pointless war in Ukraine,” Lula said.

The Biden administration will also likely be eager to discuss climate policy, following four years of growing deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon under agribusiness ally Bolsonaro.

Lula vowed last month at the UN climate conference in Egypt – which Bolsonaro skipped – to fight for zero deforestation in Brazil’s 60% share of the world’s largest rainforest, a key asset in the fight to curb the climate change.

The incoming president said he will also start appointing his cabinet ministers after Dec. 12, with markets particularly anxious about his selection as finance minister, amid concerns about how his government will pay for promised social spending.