The US President has met his Brazilian counterpart and promised to support Brazil's ambitions for closer trade ties and a greater role on the world stage.
The pair held a joint news conference in the White House Rose Garden, where Trump said he wanted to make Brazil a major non-NATO ally or possibly even push for Bolsonaro to become the first South American leader to have their nation included the alliance.
Trump also said he supported Brazil’s bid to join the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), a group of 36 wealthier nations that meet to share best practices on economic policy.
Bolsonaro had modelled his successful campaign on Trump’s populism and disdain for political correctness. He has often been called ‘Brazil’s Trump’ or ‘Trump of the Tropics’.
During brief comments before their formal meeting, President Trump said that he was honored that people have compared his campaign to Jair Bolsonaro’s. He said that Brazil and the U.S. have “never been closer.” https://t.co/XqOA8fa7L6
— The New York Times (@nytimes) March 19, 2019
The leaders were in lockstep on the wall and “fake news”
Since coming to power on New Year’s Day 2019, Bolsonaro has sought to strengthen Brazil’s alliance with the US and move away from its ties to other South American nations.
A former Army captain, he has pursued a range of far right policies. He has rejected international efforts to safeguard the Amazon rainforest and lashed out at environmental groups such as the World Wildlife Fund. He has also been under fire for his views on women (he infamously said a Congresswoman was “not worth raping; she is very ugly”) and his anti-LGBT rhetoric.
At the meeting, Bolsonaro threw his support behind Trump’s plans for a US-Mexico wall. “We do agree with President Trump’s decision or proposal on the wall,” Bolsonaro said via a translator. “The vast majority of potential immigrants do not have good intentions. They do not intend to do the best or do good to the U.S. people.
“I would very much like the US to uphold the current immigration policy, because to a large extent we owe our democracy in the Southern Hemisphere to the United States,” he said.
— CBS News (@CBSNews) March 19, 2019
Both men have railed against “fake news” and returned to the topic at their press conference. “Brazil and the United States 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,” Bolsonaro said.
Trump later said he was glad to hear Bolsonaro use the term “fake news”. He also said that social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter were colluding against conservatives.
“I tell you, I have many, many millions of followers on Twitter and it’s different than it used to be: Things are happening, names are taken off, people aren’t getting through. You’ve heard the same complaints. And it seems to be if they’re conservative, if they’re Republicans, if they’re in a certain group, there’s discrimination and big discrimination.”
Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro presents President Donald Trump with a Brazilian national team soccer jersey in the Oval Office of the White House, March 19, 2019, in Washington. (Photo: Evan Vucci/AP) https://t.co/4qnCtAJgn3 pic.twitter.com/mRsfukpitW
— Yahoo News (@YahooNews) March 19, 2019
Trump and Bolsonaro bonded over trade and fighting socialism
The two leaders also denounced socialism and applauded the toppling of Venezuela’s Nicolás Maduro following widespread protests against his regime.
Closer trader ties were also on the table; the pair came to preliminary agreements on agricultural trade, including smoothing the way for more US pork and wheat exports to enter Brazil and consideration of reopening the Brazilian beef trade to the US.
“Brazil makes great product and we make great product, and our trade has been never as good as it should be in the past. And in some cases it should be far, far more,” Trump said.
Before their meeting on Tuesday, National Security Advisor John Bolton said the summit was “a potentially historic opportunity to redirect relations between our two countries, the two largest democracies in the Western Hemisphere”.
“I think it will have a profound impact not just in this hemisphere, but really around the world,” he said.
The new pals swapped soccer jerseys, with Bolsonaro giving Trump a yellow Brazil soccer jersey emblazoned with the US President’s name and taking home a white US jersey.
Ahead of the meeting, Bolsonaro said he was looking forward to a close alliance. “I’m willing to open my heart up to him and do whatever is good, to the benefit of both the Brazilian and the American people,” he told Fox News.