Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro led yesterday (Monday, October 19, 2020) the opening of the virtual Brazil-Arab Countries Economic Forum hosted by the Arab-Brazilian Chamber of Commerce (ABCC) in partnership with the League of Arab States and the Union of Arab Chambers.
This year, the special online edition features several dignitaries from Brazil and Arab League member countries. Being held under the theme ‘The Future is Now,’ the economic forum aims to promote and strengthen the commercial and cultural relations among participating countries. During the event, the delegates and representatives will propose strategic ways on how these relations can further evolve and develop in a sustainable manner.
Top-level participants attended the forum’s first day. Joining President Bolsonaro in the kickoff event were Arab League’s Secretary-General, Ahmed Abou Al Ghait; the UAE Minister of State, Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, Ahmed Ali Al Sayegh; and Union of Arab Chamber’s Secretary-General, Khaled Hanafy.
President Bolsonaro said: “It is a great pleasure to participate in the Brazil-Arab Countries Economic Forum. Brazil gives special attention to its relationship with the Arab world, which plays a major role in the formation of our society through the many immigrants who moved to our country. We intend to continue strengthen our historical and cultural ties and friendship between our peoples. It is also our desire to harness the full potential of our alliance that can be explored to benefit the most diverse sectors and start new avenues of dialogue and cooperation between our nations.”
President Bolsonaro recalled his visit to the UAE and Saudi Arabia last year, which proved the ‘unequivocal evidence’ of the Brazilian interest in strengthening its socio-economic ties with the Arab League countries. He mentioned specifically Saudi Arabia’s pledge to invest up to USD 10 billion via its Public Investment Fund.
He also highlighted the importance of taking advantage of the Arab world’s infrastructure and logistics to diversify and expand Brazil’s access to the regional market. He pointed out that some 30 Brazilian companies have commercial offices and manufacturing facilities throughout the Middle East, and he was ‘extremely pleased’ to become aware of the opening of the ABCC’s office in Dubai in February 2019.
He added that countries such as the UAE, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait have made significant investments in Brazil.
“I am certain that we will see those numbers multiply as we’ve taken several measures that will allow the revival of Brazil’s sustainable economic growth post-COVID-19 pandemic,” he stated.
He pointed out that, year-to-date through August, the volume of meat exports to Arab countries reached USD 4.8 billion. The country, he noted, is close to matching whole-year exports in 2019 that amounted to USD 4.9 billion. The President also said the Brazilian production of halal food – or those made in compliance with Islamic rules and traditions – stands for quality and trust.
“The Arab countries can rely on Brazil’s strategic partnership to ensure their food security, and we are ready to create new avenues of dialogue and cooperation, so as to lay down regulatory frameworks that can fine-tune Brazilian-Arab investment even further,” he remarked.
Meanwhile, Rubens Hannun, President, ABCC, underscored during his talk that Brazilians and Arabs maintain a bilateral relation that sets an example to the world. He pointed out that the Arab League is Brazil’s third largest foreign trade partner and second in agribusiness.
Hannun, however, said he believes efforts are needed to increase investment through new bilateral agreements, including double-taxation and investment protection agreements.
In this regard, the ABCC drafted a number of strategic actions to be presented in the economic forum. They include signing of commercial and logistics agreements, which are based on promoting established trade hubs in the Arab countries, in a bid to create shipping lanes between Brazil and Arab countries.
He also emphasized the importance of taking new initiatives aimed at reducing the bureaucracy and securing good export and import processes. In addition to the food security issue, Brazil should explore new synergies with the Arab countries in energy, technology innovation, environment preservation, and sustainable production, Hannun said.
Arab League Secretary-General Al Ghait, for his part, was ‘extremely pleased’ in participating in the Brazil-Arab Countries Economic Forum, saying the ongoing event is a great opportunity to improve the commercial and economic relations between Brazilians and Arabs. He believed that it would contribute to strengthening ‘our historical, cultural and economic ties,’ thus becoming an important vector to explore new forms of cooperation between Arabs and Brazilians.
Similarly, the UAE Minister of State Al Sayegh said that, in recent years, the UAE-Brazil trade and investment relations have evolved. He added that there is still room for the bilateral trade to grow even more, stressing that Brazil could consider new business opportunities in the region, including a larger use of the Arab ports. He noted that interested parties could explore cooperation in other key areas such as technology, innovation and energy.
The economic forum’s opening ceremony concluded with the remarks delivered by Union of Arab Chambers Secretary-General Hanafy, who was ‘very pleased’ to be part of the event that took place online because of the pandemic.
Hanafy said that the Union of Arab Chambers represents the Arab region’s private sector and has worked to further the economic ties between Brazil and Arab states. He pointed out that the Arab-Brazilian commercial flow is still small, and that there is a need to ‘open doors’ for it to grow in both imports and exports.