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Bush Meets Brazilian President-Elect da Silva - 2002-12-10

Economic matters topped the agenda when President Bush met at the White House Tuesday with Brazilian President-elect Luiz Inacia Lula da Silva.

They come from strikingly different political philosophies especially when it comes to economics.

President Bush is a fiscal conservative, while Mr. da Silva is a former union leader with leftist leanings.

Still, the Brazilian president-elect told reporters he was encouraged by their first meeting. "I would say that the meeting with President Bush was above the expectation," Mr. da Silva said.

It was billed as a "get-acquainted" session - an opportunity for each man to take the measure of the other. Mr. da Silva said both talked about a desire to strengthen relations. And he said President Bush put forward what he called "a common agenda" for U.S. Brazilian ties.

Mr. da Silva did not go into details of the President's proposal, although he did say it would get serious consideration. The Brazilian president-elect also said that during the meeting he stressed the need to step up efforts to promote development in Latin America. He said development is crucial to keep the peace, to fight drug trafficking and diminish poverty.

Later, White House Spokesman Ari Fleischer said Mr. da Silva's concerns were heard. He too portrayed the meeting in highly positive terms. "This was a very constructive and positive meeting from the president's point of view. They had a very good discussion of areas of mutual interest between the United States and Brazil that focused on trade and economic relations between our two nations," he said.

Trade is one area where Mr. da Silva's policies are at odds with the United States. He opposes the Bush administration's call for a Free Trade Area of the Americas, and wants the U.S. to reduce trade barriers to Latin American agricultural products.

Still, as he left the White House, he spoke in positive terms about prospects for the future. And he mentioned the possibility of a summit meeting with President Bush after he takes office on January first.

Mr. da Silva will become leader of the second most populous country in the Western Hemisphere and the largest economy in South America. Despite his leftwing roots, he has stressed his desire to keep the Brazilian economy stable through controls on spending, seek better relations with the United States, and negotiate differences on trade with the Bush administration.