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Trump forges bond with Brazil's Bolsonaro in White House visit

US president said he supported Brazil's bid to join the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development

President Donald Trump and visiting Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro walk along the Colonnade of the White House, March 19, 2019, in Washington. AP Photo
President Donald Trump and visiting Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro walk along the Colonnade of the White House, March 19, 2019, in Washington. AP Photo

US President Donald Trump and Brazil's new far-right leader Jair Bolsonaro forged a bond over their conservative and populist politics on Tuesday.

Mr Trump pledged to give more US support to Brazil's global ambitions during a visit by Mr Bolsonaro to the White House.

The US president said he told the Brazilian leader he would designate the country a major non-Nato ally and possibly support a campaign to make Brazil "maybe a Nato ally".

Mr Bolsonaro, a former army captain who rode to the presidency with an anti-establishment campaign modelled on Mr Trump's 2016 run, has declared himself an admirer of the US president and the American way of life.

He praised Mr Trump for changing the US in a way he said he hoped to change Brazil.

"Brazil and the US are tied by the guarantee of liberty, respect for the traditional family, the fear of God our creator, against gender identity, political correctness and fake news," Mr Bolsonaro said.

Those themes have inflamed his critics in Brazil who are concerned about his autocratic views.

Nicknamed the "Trump of the Tropics", Mr Bolsonaro rose to power praising the US-backed military government that ran Brazil for two decades before a return to democracy in 1985.

He moved quickly to bring Brazil closer to the US, a shift in diplomatic priorities after over a decade of leftist party rule in which the country forged closer ties with regional allies.

On Tuesday, the two presidents repeatedly rejected socialism and talked up their efforts to oust Venezuela's left-wing leader, Nicolas Maduro.

They had an easy rapport, exchanging football jumpers from their national teams at the start of their meeting in the Oval Office.

Mr Trump's name was emblazoned on Brazil's famous yellow shirt and Mr Bolsonaro's on the US kit.

The two also share a desire to employ family members as some of their closest advisers.

Mr Trump praised Mr Bolsonaro's son Eduardo, a congressman who wore a Trump 2020 hat when visiting Washington last year.

The leaders of the two largest economies in the Western Hemisphere also discussed how to increase trade and reduce barriers.

"Brazil makes great product and we make great product, and our trade has been never as good as it should be in the past," Mr Trump said. "And in some cases it should be far, far more."

They struck initial agreements on agricultural trade, with better access for US wheat and pork exports to Brazil and the possibility of restarting Brazilian beef sales to America.

China, embroiled in a trade war with the US, has eclipsed America in trade and investment with Brazil.

Mr Bolsonaro, who was critical of Beijing in his campaign, announced hours after meeting Mr Trump that he would visit the country in the second half of the year.

The Brazilian Economy Minister, Paulo Guedes, on Monday urged the US to open its market more to the South American if it wanted to change the status quo.

Mr Trump said he supported Brazil's efforts to join the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, a group of wealthier nations sharing best practices on economic policy.

But US support would not come for free, Mr Guedes said. In exchange, the Americans asked Brazil to give up some benefits at the World Trade Organisation, he said earlier on Tuesday.

Becoming a "major non-Nato ally" implies a status upgrade that gives a country preferential access to buying US military equipment and technology.

Supporting Brazil for association with Nato would be a considerable step further, for which Mr Trump said he would "have to talk to a lot of people".

Colombia in 2018 became the only Latin American nation to join Nato, as a "global partner", which means it does not have to take part in military action.

Updated: March 20, 2019 09:16 AM

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