It is time to strengthen Brazil-Arab exchange
São Paulo – Brazil and the Arab countries must take advantage of the good moment their economies are in to strengthen their relations in several areas. The statement was made by the president at the Arab Brazilian Chamber of Commerce, Antonio Sarkis Jr., during a meeting with Arab ambassadors held yesterday (2nd) at the head office of the organisation, in the city of São Paulo (SE Brazil).
“These are two wealthy regions currently experiencing strong development. We must seize the moment to make political, economic and cultural relations stronger, so that we may continue to reap positive results,” stated Sarkis. “Brazil now ranks among the world’s leading countries in terms of investment and production, and the same applies to the Arab nations,” he said.
The meeting between the heads at the Arab Brazilian Chamber and the Council of Arab Ambassadors in Brazil aimed to assess the status of economic exchange and the promotional actions held, and to discuss future trends in bilateral relations.
Sarkis underscored that bilateral trade, i.e. the sum of exports and imports, between Brazil and the Arab world totalled US$ 13.4 billion in 2007, and that from January to April this year, it has already reached US$ 5.3 billion. “The figures are already significant, but the potential for trade is much greater,” he stated. “And this is our challenge: to keep those figures rising closer and closer to what we dream of,” he claimed.
To that extent, he said one of the trends in bilateral trade from now on is diversification of the export basket, which is still very much focused on agricultural raw materials and minerals, on the Brazilian side, and oil and derivatives, on the Arab side.
Sarkis also claimed that the search for reciprocal investment opportunities must be facilitated by means of establishing representative offices, promoting direct investment, and trading and investing on the capital market.
He also expects closer relations in the field of logistics, with creation of more direct air and sea routes between Brazil and the Arab countries, increase of tourist flow, and expansion of bilateral cooperation in the fields of education, culture, technology and communication.
Sarkis discussed the various actions held by the Arab Brazilian Chamber this year, such as trade missions and participation in trade fairs; and the events yet to take place this year, such as the Chamber’s attendance to trade fairs Hotel Show, in Dubai, the Algiers International Fair, the Damascus International Fair, and the Big 5 Show, for the construction sector, also in Dubai, as well as promotion of trade missions and seminars in Brazil and the Arab world.
At the meeting, diplomats also expressed criticism and gave suggestions. The Moroccan ambassador to Brazil, Farida Jaïdi, said she would like to see more Arab Brazilian Chamber actions in her country. Sarkis requested that the embassy recommend promising trade fairs for Brazilian companies, so that they may be included in the organisation’s schedule.
The ambassador of Tunisia to Brazil, Sefeddine Cherif, stated that the Arab Brazilian Chamber and the diplomats must work to facilitate transit between the two regions. Even though Emirates Airlines already has a direct flight between São Paulo and Dubai, there is no direct flight linking Brazil to North Africa yet. “We must seriously consider this matter,” he stated. He also spoke of investment opportunities in Tunisia, and said that Brazilian companies may benefit from the country’s free trade agreement the European Union.
Yousuf Ali Al-Usaimi, ambassador of the United Arab Emirates to Brazil and dean of the Council of Ambassadors, talked about investment incentives in his country, such as tax exemption and ease of obtaining information on the internet.
Along the same lines, the Jordanian ambassador to Brazil, Ramez Goussous, spoke of advantages offered to foreign investors in his country, and said that Brazil should seek to sign agreements, so as to eliminate double taxation on earnings obtained abroad by Brazilian companies. Farida added that the Brazilian government and parliament must be made aware of that issue.
Sarkis stated that the Chamber is discussing the matter with Brazilian authorities, and that the secretary general at the organisation, Michel Alaby, has already forwarded a paper to the federal government containing suggestions on the matter.
The Foreign Trade vice president at the Arab Brazilian Chamber, Salim Schahin, asserted that the government is working to encourage Brazilian companies to internationalise by purchasing foreign companies. To that extent, he suggested that the Chamber should be informed of opportunities in the area, so that it may announce them.
Rahamtalla Mohamed Osman, ambassador of Sudan to Brazil, stated that his country would like to receive investment from Brazilian companies, especially in the fields of agriculture and infrastructure. He also suggested that a trade fair be held to promote Arab products in Brazil.
The ambassador of Algeria to Brazil, M’hamed Achache, asserted that there are companies in his country interested in investing in Brazil, but that those companies do not yet possess a clear picture of the country’s market.
Sarkis claimed that the Chamber is going to increase exchange with sister organisations in the Arab world, so as to broaden Arab businessmen’s knowledge of Brazil. Michel Alaby also stated that the annual meeting of Arab chambers based on foreign countries is going to be held in Brazil in 2009.
The ambassador of Qatar to Brazil, Jamal Nasser Al Bader, said that the next Summit of South American-Arab Countries is going to take place in his country, and that he expects the Arab Brazilian Chamber to have strong presence at the event. Sarkis recalled that the Chamber counts on the partnership of the Itamaraty (Brazilian foreign office) for promoting business events on the sidelines of the summit, and that it will definitely have a strong presence at the meeting.
Also yesterday, the diplomats attended a business seminar on business and investment opportunities in the Arab countries. At the event, Michel Alaby underscored the fact that the number of business inquiries made to the Arab Brazilian Chamber by both Brazilian and Arab companies grew 56% between 2005 and 2007.
Also attending the activities yesterday were the representative of the League of Arab States in the Brazilian capital Brasília, Bachar Yaghi, the ambassador of Mauritania to Brazil, N’ Diaye Kane, the charges d’affaires at the Syrian embassy to Brazil, Elias Bara, the business consul of Egypt in São Paulo, Mahmud Mazhar, the president at the Higher Administrative Council of the Arab Brazilian Chamber, Willian Adib Dib, the Arab Brazilian Chamber’s Foreign Relations and Marketing vice presidents, Helmi Nasr and Rubens Hannun, directors Bechara Ibrahim, Mustapha Abdouni, Adel Auada and Toufik Sleiman, and the former chairman of the board of directors and the administrative board at the Chamber, Walid Yazigi.
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