Brazilian Lula invites the Japanese Prime Minister to eat his country’s meat and become a believer

SAO PAULO (AP) — Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva welcomed Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida on Friday on his first visit to the country, with the two meeting in the capital Brasilia and the South American leader urging his counterpart to trade shares to buy his land. beef.

Brazil had wanted to use the bilateral meeting to promote an agreement to open Japanese markets to Brazilian beef, a goal the Latin American country has been pursuing since 2005. In an appeal to the Prime Minister, Lula insisted that he would eat at a steakhouse during the elections. his journey.

“I don’t know what you ate last night,” Lula said at the press conference, looking at Kishida and the Japanese delegation, then turning his attention to Vice President Geraldo Alckmin, who is also Minister of Industry, Trade and Development. and Trade. “Please take Prime Minister Fumio to eat steak at the best restaurant in Sao Paulo so that he will import our beef the following week.”

Under Lula, Brazil has stepped up efforts to export beef to international markets. Since early 2023, when Lula came to power, 50 countries have lifted restrictions, mostly in Asia. According to Brazilian officials, about 70% of the beef consumed in Japan is imported, while 80% of imports come from the US and Australia.

“Our meat is cheaper and of better quality than the meat you buy. I don’t even know the price, but I’m sure ours is cheaper and of extreme quality,” Lula added.

Brazil exported more than 2 million pounds of beef in 2023, barely breaking the previous year’s record, according to official trade data. The country is the largest beef exporter in the world, shipping to more than 90 countries. Sanitary conditions in livestock farming are now “much better than in 2005, especially with regard to the recognition of areas free from foot-and-mouth disease without vaccination,” said Eduardo Paes Saboia, Secretary for Asia and the Pacific at the Brazilian Ministry of Foreign Affairs. reporters in Brasilia.

The livestock industry is also a major driver of the destruction of the Amazon rainforest and the Cerrado, a vast tropical savannah area. Japan and Brazil agreed to Japanese support for rehabilitation initiatives in the degraded areas of the Cerrado. Additional cooperation agreements related, among other things, to cooperation in the field of cybersecurity and investment promotion.

“There is great potential in bilateral cooperation to address global issues,” Kishida said at a press conference after their bilateral meeting.

He added that he expected to strengthen Japanese and Brazilian cooperation on environmental protection measures, climate change and sustainable development, citing his country’s recent contribution of $3 million to the Brazilian government’s fund to protect the Amazon -rainforest. He also noted that 150 Japanese executives had joined him on the trip.

According to the Brazilian president, Kishida’s first words to Lula were to express solidarity with the victims of the floods in the southern state of Rio Grande do Sul, which killed 37 people on Friday morning, while dozens are still missing.

Brazil is home to the world’s largest Japanese community outside Japan, with more than 2.7 million Japanese citizens and their descendants. The first ships from the Asian country arrived in Brazil in 1908 and immigration peaked between World War I and World War II.

Prime Minister Kishida will travel to Asuncion, Paraguay in the afternoon to attend a business summit, meet the Japanese community and have dinner with President Santiago Peña. On Saturday morning, he is expected to fly back to Brazil to meet the Japanese community in Sao Paulo, give a speech at the University of Sao Paulo and attend a business meeting.

Gabriela Sá Pessoa, The Associated Press