Brazilian President-elect Luiz In?cio Lula da Silva can expect a warm welcome when he visits Washington on Dec. 11, just three weeks before taking charge of South America's biggest economy. The Bush Administration is determined to forge a good working relationship with the leftist former labor leader because his support is key to the U.S. goal of creating a hemisphere-wide free-trade zone. Brazil and the U.S. are co-chairs of the next and final stage of negotiations for the Free Trade Area of the Americas, which is to be launched by 2005.
But Lula is taking a tough line on the pact, accusing Washington of trying to dictate the rules. He's also angry over U.S. trade barriers to Brazilian agricultural and steel products. President Bush may find dealing with Brazil's feisty new leader no easy feat. EDITED BY Edited by Rose Brady