President Donald Trump will host Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro in Florida this weekend, Trump said Friday, confirming reports that the right-wing fellow populist would attend a private dinner at Trump’s resort home.
Bolsonaro will dine with Trump at Mar-a-Lago on Saturday night, their first meeting since Trump blindsided Bolsonaro in December with an announcement of new tariffs on imported steel and aluminum.
“Yeah, I am. We’re having dinner at Mar-a-Lago,” Trump said, answering questions from reporters at the White House before leaving for a tour of storm damage in Tennessee and then a weekend of fundraising in Florida.
“He wanted to have dinner in Florida, if that was possible. The president of Brazil. So we’ll be doing that,” Trump said.
The White House followed up with a statement saying the two presidents “will discuss opportunities to build a more prosperous, secure and democratic world.”
The political, economic and humanitarian crisis in Venezuela is among other agenda items. The White House statement did not mention the tariffs.
Caught unawares by the tariff announcement on Twitter, Bolsonaro seemed confused and flustered when reporters in Brazil asked him what had happened. He said he was sure that a call to Trump would fix matters. It may have worked, although Trump has not definitively removed the threat. Bolsonaro wrote on Facebook in late December that Trump had agreed not to go forward with the trade penalties, but the episode led to criticism in Brazil that Bolsonaro’s coziness with Trump had backfired.
Bolsonaro is visiting the United States for meetings with business leaders amid an economic slump. The country reported that economic growth slowed to 1.1 percent last year, and Brazil has acknowledged that the global coronavirus outbreak will further affect economic performance.
Bolsonaro is a Trump admirer who patterned his successful election campaign on Trump’s 2016 victory, and who proudly called himself the “Trump of the Tropics.” He has courted Trump and ties to U.S. businesses, and Trump aides touted Bolsonaro’s election as both a welcome end to leftist rule and an endorsement of Trump’s transactional foreign policy. The two men had a warm meeting at the White House last March, but Trump has not followed up with a promised visit to Brazil.
Trump has said he likes Bolsonaro and his pro-development agenda. Trump did not join other world leaders in criticizing Bolsonaro’s handling of huge fires in the Amazon region last year that are linked to deforestation. Bolsonaro’s critics say his policies on mining and other development have contributed to ecological disaster.
Addressing the United Nations General Assembly in September, Bolsonaro rejected calls for foreign intervention in the burning Amazon, telling world leaders that his country would use the rain forest’s resources as it sees fit.
The Amazon isn’t in flames, he said, to snorts and laughter in the gallery. He said the region is rich with resources that Brazil alone will choose how to use.
The fires were blamed largely on loggers and farmers, who set them to clear land for pasture and agribusiness. Bolsonaro campaigned in 2018 on promises to open the Amazon for development; deforestation rates there have nearly doubled since he took office in January 2019.