Thursday, May 20th, on a national radio and television hookup,
President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva presented a balance sheet of his
500 days in office. The first part of the program was devoted to his trip
to China, where he departed this Friday. According to Lula, the journey represents
a "mission of the utmost importance to the country," since the objective
is to expand trade with that nation.
Lula presented data that
prove China's current strategic importance for Brazil. "China, with its
1.3 billion inhabitants, is the fastest-growing country in the world at this
moment and one of the countries that buys the most. Its volume of imports
today reaches the astronomical figure of US$ 412 billion. Since last year
our government has made the strategic decision to draw closer and closer to
China," the President affirmed.
He informed that, last
year alone, Brazil exported US$ 4.5 billion to China. Lula said he intends
to increase this volume, since the exports to China are currently concentrated
in soybeans, mineral ores, and steel products. "We have the quality and
competitive prices to grow substantially in other areas in which China buys
a great deal, such as electro-electronic devices, sporting goods, chicken,
beef, coffee, cellulose, airplanes, and automobiles. Without mentioning the
alcohol extracted from sugar cane, ethanol, which China may need, a lot, since
it has 171 cities with over 1 million residents."
For the President, trips
like the one to China, in addition to consolidating "the great progress
that Brazil is achieving in foreign trade," can also have direct impacts
on the country. "Increasing exports to countries that are major buyers,
like China, is one of the most reliable and solid ways to accelerate our own
domestic sector, mobilizing and strengthening our economy and thus helping
to create the jobs we so badly need," he pointed out.
Around US$ 3 billion is
the total of investments expected to result from Lula's visit to China. The
Vale do Rio Doce Company alone will conclude an agreement worth US$ 2 billion
with its Chinese counterpart Baosteel to install a steel plant in the state
China is the Vale's biggest
customer. Last year the company exported nearly US$ 1 billion to that country.
The same performance should be repeated this year. This amount represents
11 percent of the Vale's iron ore shipments.
with China is strategic for a country like Brazil, which wants to grow. China
has a high savings rate and aspirations to invest in other countries. This
is the case with our association," observes Fábio Barbosa, corporate
executive director of finance.
Barbosa, who was secretary
of the National Treasury during Fernando Henrique Cardoso's administration,
recalls that China's development has made the country a good buyer, "extremely
open," and capable of teaching Brazil the paths to growth.
In 2003, China exported
US$ 436 billion and imported US$ 413 billion, for a trade surplus close to
US$ 20 billion. "The surplus is similar to Brazil's, except that their
trade flow was five times greater, almost US$ 850 billion," he pointed
out, comparing it with Brazil's trade flow of US$ 150 billion. The Chinese
Gross Domestic Product is US$ 1.3 trillion, while Brazil's is US$ 500 billion.
In the agricultural sphere,
the two governments will sign an agreement to exchange information about research
on animal and plant hygiene and disease prevention.
The goal, according to
the commercial attaché of the Brazilian embassy in China, José
Mário Ferreira Filho, is to encourage understandings over research
procedures and methods concerning food security, laws, and norms.
Such an agreement, he
contends, will avert distressing incidents like the one that occurred two
weeks ago, when four Brazilian soybean export firms were punished by the Chinese
quarantine (inspection agency) for selling soybeans containing high levels
of chemical substances.
Ferreira Filho assured
that the incident, which happened a few days before the signing of agreements
in the agricultural sphere, will not harm the understandings with China.
Another accord that is
expected to be concretized during President Lula's stay in China is in the
area of tourism, with Brazil's inclusion as an itinerary approved by the Chinese
government. This will permit the establishment of direct flights between the
It is estimated that,
in 2010, around 100 million Chinese tourists will travel around the world.
But only to authorized destinations. To avail itself of this opportunity,
the Brazilian aviation company, Varig, opened an office in Beijing in March.
Gabriela Guerreiro works for Agência Brasil (AB), the official press
agency of the Brazilian government. Comments are welcome at email@example.com.
from the Portuguese by David Silberstein.