Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva received a lavish welcome from Queen Elizabeth II on Tuesday, March 7, but he has more than pomp and ceremony planned for his three-day state visit to Britain.
Lula, who arrived in London on Monday, promises to press Prime Minister Tony Blair to persuade the World Trade Organization to slash agricultural subsidies, which he says could otherwise doom poor nations to decades of misery.
The Brazilian President is traveling with a delegation of Cabinet ministers and Brazilian business leaders for a visit intended to promote trade between the two nations and strengthen cooperation in a range of areas, including fighting AIDS and improving education.
Silva received a ceremonial welcome from the Queen and her husband, Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh, at a central London parade ground and inspected an honor guard during a torrential downpour.
He and his wife then joined a carriage procession down the wide Mall to Buckingham Palace – he sitting with the Queen in an ornate horse-drawn carriage, and his wife in another carriage with the Duke.
Later Tuesday, Silva and his wife had lunch with the Queen and visit an exhibition of Brazilian works of art. They attended a state banquet at the palace, where they are staying.
Tony Blair, the Prime Minister, his deputy John Prescott and Charles Clarke, Home Secretary, were in the party which welcomed the President and his wife, Marisa Letícia. The Earl and Countess of Wessex also attended the ceremony.
Lula is expected to engage in political and business meetings in the UK as well as cultural trips and state functions.
British Ambassador in Brazil, Peter Colecott, affirmed that this visit represents to his country an opportunity to have with Brazil a "more complete and deep relationship," which, he added, "will be necessary in the future".
Colecott recalled that Lula was invited during the G8 meeting (the seven wealthiest nations plus Russia), last July, in Gleneagles, Scotland. In his opinion, this invitation represents the acknowledgment of Brazil as a "key emerging power," and it also recognizes President Lula as a "great world personality, a leader". The ambassador summarized: "This visit is very special to us".
The UK hosts two or three state visits per year. Different from a work visit, a state visit generally follows a series of rituals, such as military parades, and trips to the headquarters of the three branches of power. In the past, only two Brazilian Presidents made state visits to the UK: Ernesto Geisel, in 1976, and Fernando Henrique Cardoso, in 1997.
The British Ambassador pointed out, however, that the present moment is "very different." He affirmed, "Brazil is now more stable, more developed." And, as examples, he mentioned Brazil’s role in South America, its relations with African countries, and, especially, with other emerging countries, such as China, India, and South Africa.
Colecott added that because of Brazilian relations in the whole world, the country "is more important to our interests now, and will be even more in the future."
Britain’s Foreign Office said British and Brazilian officials also would discuss global warming, health, development, culture and education, among other issues.
Lula meets with Blair on Thursday, March 9, at the Prime Minister’s residence, and the two plan a joint press conference.
Mercopress – www.mercopress.com
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