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European Union seeks out Brazil as a new trading partner

Growth potential seen in nation's bio fuel market

LISBON -- The European Union invited Brazil yesterday to join a small group of strategic partners in what the Brazilian president, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, said would revive a historic relationship.

South American powerhouse Brazil would join a group including Russia, India, and China, which have such agreements with the EU.

The invitation was extended by Portugal to its former colony at the first summit of its rotating, six-month EU presidency.

"What we are doing today is to revive a historic partnership," Lula told Portuguese and Brazilian business leaders before the summit opened.

"It's fundamental that companies create partnerships between the EU and Brazil and the growth potential in trade is huge."

The partnership is meant to improve cooperation between the EU and South America's largest economy in areas such as trade, renewable energy, and the fight against poverty.

"This summit is a way to acknowledge the growing part that Brazil has played on the world stage and that makes the country an essential partner," the Portuguese prime minister, Jose Socrates, said.

Socrates said the upgrading of ties with Brazil would give coherence to EU foreign policy by now including all the so-called BRIC -- Brazil, Russia, India, and China -- countries as special partners.

Brussels also sees Brazil, one of the world's biggest emerging economies which is home to most of the Amazon's rainforest and a major biofuels producer, as a key player in the fight against global warming, one of the EU's priorities.

In a sign of Portugal's determination to take advantage of that potential, oil company Galp Energia yesterday signed an agreement with Brazil's Petrobras to produce 600,000 tons of vegetable oils in Brazil.

Brazil is a world leader in biofuel production and EU leaders set a target in March for biofuels to represent at least 10 percent of vehicle fuels by 2020.

The summit will also address bilateral trade and investment issues to complement the EU's talks for a trade deal with the Mercosur group of South American countries including Brazil.