Brazil's President Lula visits Vietnam

Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva was Thursday due to meet the leaders of communist Vietnam during an official one-day visit as part of a wider Asia tour.

Lula, who arrived from the Group of Eight industrialised nations summit in Japan the previous night, was to hold talks with his counterpart Nguyen Minh Triet, Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung and Communist Party chief Nong Duc Manh, the AFP reported.

Lula, a former leftist union leader, was scheduled to start the day with visits to the mausoleum of Vietnam's revolutionary leader Ho Chi Minh and the war veterans' memorial, two routine stops when foreign leaders visit Vietnam.

It is the first visit by a Brazilian president since the countries established relations in 1989 but follows numerous high-level visits by Vietnamese leaders to Brazil since then.

Former Vietnamese presidents Le Duc Anh and Tran Duc Luong travelled to Brazil in 1995 and 2004 respectively, and the ruling Communist Party's General Secretary Manh paid a visit in May last year.

Brazil's Foreign Minister Celso Nunez Amorim in February visited Vietnam and praised the potential for cooperation in economics, trade, healthcare and cultural and social affairs, local state media reported.

Speaking later on his trip in Singapore, Amorim said he would like to see a trade agreement between the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations, of which Vietnam is a member, and South America's Mercosur trading bloc.

"Our trade with the region is still very uneven," Amorim said in the city-state, calling trade with Singapore already significant but saying that with Vietnam it was "almost negative" while offering much potential.

Hanoi and Brasilia in 2004 reached agreements on exchanging diplomatic notes to provide each other with most-favoured nation status, the state-run Vietnam News Agency (VNA) reported.

But two-way trade reached just 323 million dollars last year, said VNA.

Vietnam exported coal, rice, textiles and footwear, wood furniture and electronics, while importing flour, soya-bean oil, animal feed materials, steel, paper and pulp, wood and leather from Brazil, said VNA.

The Brazilian president, who is travelling with his wife, is scheduled to travel on to Portuguese-speaking East Timor and its former ruler Indonesia.

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