WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump praised Brazil’s new far-right leader Tuesday as he welcomed him to the White House, saying the man who’s been described as the “Trump of the Tropics” has done “a very outstanding job.”
The two leaders were expected to discuss a range of issues during their first sit-down, including expanding trade relations, increasing America’s private sector investment in Brazil and resolving the ongoing political crisis in Venezuela. Both are fierce critics of Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro.
As they sat down for talks, Trump also said that he supports Brazil’s effort’s to join the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development and is “very strongly” looking at U.S. support for Brazil’s effort to gain certain NATO privileges.
"We're very inclined to do that," Trump told reporters, describing the relationship between the two countries as better than ever.
"I think there was a lot of hostility with other presidents. There's zero hostility with me. And we're going to look at that very, very strongly, whether it's NATO or it's something having to do with alliance," he said.
Brazil, the largest and most populous nation in Latin America, has pursued becoming a "major non-member ally" to NATO to make buying U.S. weapons easier and to lower barriers to military and other cooperation with the U.S.
Trump later told reporters he intends to work to designate Brazil a "major non-NATO ally" and "maybe a NATO ally" as well.
Days after taking office Jan. 1, Bolsonaro, a former Army captain, said Brazil would consider letting the U.S. have a military base in the country as way to counter Russian influence in the region, particularly related to Brazil’s neighbor Venezuela.
That statement was roundly criticized, including by former military members of his government, and the administration backed off. Still, Bolsonaro routinely expresses his admiration for Trump and frequently says closer U.S. ties are key to Brazil's future.
Brazil is seeking U.S. help with its efforts to join the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development and to expand trade. The Bolsonaro administration is seeking to reduce public sector spending and privatize state enterprises to reduce debt and grow its economy.
Prengaman reported from Rio de Janeiro. Associated Press writers Mauricio Savarese in Madrid and Ben Fox, Catherine Lucey and Kevin Freking in Washington contributed to this report.