A healthcare worker prepares a dose of Sinovac’s vaccine at Cacique de Ramos, one of the most traditional carnival blocks of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, on April 8, 2021. [RICARDO MORAES/REUTERS]

RIO DE JANEIRO-The relationship between Brazil and China is of “fundamental importance “for the South American country, and all-around cooperation between the two countries is progressing steadily with vast potential, former Brazilian president Michel Temer said.

China is Brazil’s main export destination, and the two countries have close trade relations, said Temer, adding there are broad prospects for further development of bilateral ties and Chinese investments in Brazil are expected to grow continuously.

The veteran politician, turning 80 and retired from political life, served as president of the Chamber of Deputies on three separate occasions and was also vice president before taking over Brazil’s top job in 2016.

Visiting China multiple times in official capacities, he said he has a profound understanding of the importance of the bilateral relationship. He highlighted the importance of agribusiness in Brazilian exports, particularly soybean and meat sales.

The former Brazilian leader underlined the importance of cooperation between the two countries in combating the COVID-19 pandemic as Brazil and a large part of the world struggles with surging infections and rising death tolls. The former president commended bilateral cooperation in producing vaccines against COVID-19.

“This relationship is extremely important. I have always argued that there should be great cooperation between countries, especially vaccine producers,” Temer said, adding there is a very large cooperation project on vaccines between the Butantan Institute and the Chinese pharmaceutical firm Sinovac.

“We are talking about a relationship that is not only institutional, but also humanistic, because we are trying to save lives,” Temer said in an interview.

He then recalled his visits to China, both as Brazilian vice-president and president, for events such as the BRICS Summit, G20 and bilateral meetings, expressing his desire to come back to China one day.

“I would very much like to return to China as a tourist. I really liked Beijing and was delighted with Hangzhou. I’m currently reading (a book) about (late Chinese leader) Deng Xiaoping’s life. And when I can, I have Chinese food here in Brazil,” Temer said.