China and Brazil signed a series of trade and investment agreements on Thursday before a summit of the world's top four emerging markets that was shortened to a few hours after China's president decided to return home to deal with a deadly earthquake.
Hu Jintao canceled visits to Venezuela and Chile, and his early return forced the so-called BRIC summit with Brazil, Russia and India to move forward by a day to Thursday evening.
Hu oversaw the signing of deals with Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva aimed at boosting trade and energy cooperation between the two emerging giants. Lula said a Chinese pledge to build a steel plant at a Brazilian port was also likely and that it would be China's biggest investment ever in the Latin American country.
The leaders gave no details, but Brazilian media reported that China's Wuhan Iron and Steel will build a plant in a port in Rio de Janeiro state with Brazilian logistics firm LLX Logistica, controlled by billionaire Eike Batista.
China's Sinopec and the country's development bank signed a strategic development agreement with Brazil's state-run oil giant Petrobras, Sinopec Chairman Su Shulin told Reuters.
Su said the deal will cover the development of Brazilian oil resources and trade with China but declined to provide further details.
Brazil and China also agreed to boost Brazilian beef and tobacco exports to the Asian country, and to move forward with cooperation on satellite launches.
"This accord strengthens unity among emerging markets," Hu said.
Hu and Lula did not discuss China's currency policy, two Brazilian government sources told Reuters.
The leaders of Brazil, Russia, India and China are meeting in Brazil's capital in their second summit to discuss global economic issues and trade promotion.
Brazil and the other BRICs were not expected to risk fraying ties with China by pressuring it to allow the yuan to strengthen, despite concerns about the effect of cheap Chinese exports on their economies.
Brazil's recent discovery of vast offshore oil reserves has opened a new area of potential cooperation with resource-hungry China, which last year agreed to lend $10 billion to Petrobras in return for guaranteed oil supply over the next decade.
Hu and Lula were scheduled to meet with Russia's Dmitry Medvedev and Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Thursday evening under a hastily revised schedule for the summit.
"At this difficult time, I need to urgently return to my country to be together with the people of China," Hu said in a statement, referring to the deadly quake in the southwest of the country that has killed more than 600 people.
The BRICs are using the summit to strengthen trade and investment ties with delegations of business leaders, bankers, cooperatives, and state development banks exploring business opportunities.
Differences between the four countries that account for about 40 percent of the world's population have become more evident since their first summit in Russia last year, exposing the limitations of the group's ambitions.
The foursome is expected to push its demands that the BRICs and other developing countries be given more say in global financial institutions such as the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund.
But it is not expected to push for a new international reserve currency to rival the dollar, an idea that was discussed at their last summit. As a major holder of U.S. Treasury bonds, China is not keen to see the value of its investments diminish.
The BRIC countries, which have a shared interest in pushing for a greater say in world affairs and economic decision-making, may have talks on bypassing the dollar by boosting inter-BRIC currency trade.