Joe Biden appeared to wander off stage at the UN after forgetting to shake hands with Brazil’s President Lula who looked visibly annoyed at the US president’s latest gaffe.
The awkward move came after the meeting got off to a rough start when President Biden, 80, bumbled into a seven-foot Brazilian flag as he approached the podium.
Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, 77, looked irate during the remarks – while the Brazilian President spoke Biden fumbled with his translation headset.
At the start of his speech, Lula looked at the President and said: “Can you hear me, President Biden? This is a historical moment for Brazil and for the US?”
Again, looking annoyed, he asked: “President Biden can you hear me? You can? Yes, good.”
President Biden continued to struggle with his headset throughout Lula’s speech and at one point dropped his earpiece entirely.
International Labor Organization Director-General Gilbert Houngbo made remarks after the world leaders. When he finished, Biden shook his hand but appeared to leave the Brazilian President hanging.
The US President awkwardly shuffled toward the exit while Lula looked annoyed and made a sweeping gesture with his arm.
Despite the awkward blunders, there were moments during the speeches – which lasted around 15 minutes – where the world leaders appeared in sync.
Biden said: “The two largest democracies in the Western Hemisphere are standing up for human rights around the world and the hemisphere, and that includes workers’ rights.
“Let me be clear, whether it’s the autoworkers union or any other union worker, record corporation profits should mean record contracts for union workers.
“In America, I’m proud that my administration is characterized as the most pro-union administration in American history.”
Lula said he had never heard an American president speak so highly of workers and described their common cause as a chance to transform ties between the countries.
He said: “This meeting here, for me, is more than a bilateral meeting; it is the rebirth of a new era in the relationship between the US and Brazil. It is a relationship of equals.”
Initial hopes that Lula would prove a staunch ally for Biden have been tempered in recent months, with the Brazilian leader voicing opposition on some issues and at times even seeming to thumb his nose at Washington.
That has included dismissing allegations of Venezuela’s authoritarianism, calling for decreased dependence on the dollar for global trade and accusing the US of fueling bloodshed in Ukraine by providing military aid -and refusing to supply munitions himself. In his speech at the UN General Assembly on Tuesday, Lula criticized the US embargo and sanctions targeting Cuba.
The goal of their new partnership on labor is to stop the exploitation of workers and forced and child labor, as well as workplace discrimination, and create a possible template for others in the Group of 20 to join. The two leaders also want to guarantee that the move away from fossil fuels to renewable energy emphasizes the rights of workers.
Biden sees support from organized labor as an essential part of his 2024 reelection efforts, stressing that his policies will create factory and construction jobs that do not require a college degree.
Attempting to link the move to ongoing strikes by autoworkers in the US, Biden said: “Whether it’s the auto workers or any other union worker, record corporation profits should mean record contracts for union workers.”
Lula got his start in politics as leader of a powerful metalworkers’ union and, on Wednesday, highlighted that he spent more than two decades in factories and has no degree himself.
The Brazilian President said: “This gesture we are doing here is an awakening of hope for millions and millions of Brazilians and Americans who need to have the opportunity to live life, to triumph, to work and build their family decently.”
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