Page last updated at 23:11 GMT, Saturday, 14 March 2009

Lula warns US about protectionism

Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva (left) shakes hands with US counterpart Barack Obama
The leaders met for about an hour

Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva has warned about the risks of protectionism at his first meeting with US President Barack Obama.

The two leaders focused on the global economic crisis when they met for around an hour in the White House.

Mr Lula urged quick action at the G20 summit in London next month, to restore confidence and credibility to the world's financial systems.

He also pressed Mr Obama to improve relations with Cuba and Venezuela.

The two agreed to renew efforts to revive stalled world trade talks.

President Lula is just one of a handful of international leaders, and the first from Latin America, to meet Mr Obama in the White House, an indication of Brazil's growing importance on the world stage, says the BBC's Gary Duffy in Sao Paulo.

Obama 'uniquely poised'

Against the backdrop of the financial crisis, a priority for the Brazilian president was to voice his concerns about the dangers of protectionist policies and the need to increase credit for the world's poor and developing nations.

President Lula has long argued that a crisis which began in richer countries is now hurting those least able to protect themselves.

Brazil is also keen to see easing of a tariff on its ethanol exports to the US and President Obama said he was sure tensions over the issue could be resolved eventually.

"I'm going to ask him to get inside a car that is run by a flex-fuel engine and he will feel very comfortable," Mr Lula said, looking forward to Mr Obama's first presidential visit to Brazil.

Differences remain on the deadlocked Doha round of world trade talks. Mr Obama acknowledged the current circumstances would add to the challenges involved.

Reflecting the generally positive tone of the meeting, our correspondent adds, the Brazilian leader also said President Obama was in a "unique and exceptional position to improve relationships with Latin America".

Speaking to reporters, Mr Lula said he had called on Mr Obama to build a relationship of "trust not interference" with Latin America.

He said he hoped the US president would forge "closer ties with Venezuela, closer ties with Cuba, closer ties with Bolivia".

President Lula has previously called on the US to end its decades-long embargo of Cuba.

Those comments, our correspondent notes, reflect President Lula's hope that the new administration in Washington will move beyond the view of the region as just a centre for organised crime and the drugs trade, to work together instead on issues of mutual benefit.

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