Henrique Sardinha Pinto, the head of the Commercial Promotion Department of the Brazilian foreign office (Itamaraty), is going to become the new Brazilian ambassador in Algeria, replacing Sérgio Danese. He is leaving for Algiers in late August, and one of the main challenges facing him will be to seek a more even balance of trade, as the North African country traditionally runs a surplus because of Brazilian imports of oil and naphtha.
"Being at the head of the Commercial Promotion Department, I am aware of the relevance of trade relations between Brazil and Algeria. Brazil has accumulated a US$ 14 billion deficit over the past 10 years, as a consequence of purchasing oil and naphtha," the diplomat said.
According to him, the Brazilian embassy in Algiers is already making efforts to increase exports, which are growing. "The embassy takes a proactive stance with local authorities and Brazilian companies, and this should be kept up. Exports have been growing, but not much as we would like them to," declared Sardinha.
Sales from Brazil to Algeria generated US$ 267 million in revenues from January to May this year, growth of 29.5% in comparison with the same period of 2008, according to figures supplied by the Brazilian Ministry of Development, Industry and Foreign Trade. The main items shipped were sugar, beef, soy, oil, maize, steel pipes for gas transport pipelines, and powdered milk.
Imports of Brazilian products, in turn, totaled US$ 339 million in the first five months of 2009, a 67% reduction using the same basis for comparison. The volume of purchases was strongly affected by the falling price of oil starting in July of last year. There was also an increase in production by the Brazilian state-owned oil company Petrobras, thus requiring lower volumes to be imported.
Last year, Brazilian exports to Algeria generated US$ 632.5 million in revenues, and imports totaled nearly US$ 2.5 billion, resulting in a deficit of US$ 1.865 billion.
To Sardinha, the paradigm must be shifted when it comes to exports to Algeria, which are too concentrated in basic products and must include higher value added goods. As an example he mentioned aircraft by Embraer, which fly to several Arab and African countries, but not to Algeria, even though the country has an important market for local aviation, and buys jets from competitors of the Brazilian company; and the civil construction sector, given that the Algerian government has a large infrastructure construction and renovation program.
Presently, Andrade Gutierrrez is the Brazilian construction company with the strongest presence in Algeria. According to the diplomat, the expansion of business in this field may partly make up for the trade deficit, and joint work must be done with the Algerian government in order to attain that goal, as it is the main part responsible for hiring.
He also intends to work for the opening of the Algerian market to Brazilian chicken. Although Arab countries are the leading importers in the sector, Brazilian exporters have not yet managed to introduce their products into Algeria, which already is a strong buyer of Brazilian beef, powdered milk and agricultural products. "We meet all of the requirements in terms of quality and pricing, but we have not managed to break in," he declared.
The ambassador intends to use his three years' experience at the head of the Commercial Promotion Department to encourage Brazilian exports. "Occupying space in Algeria has been a challenge to Brazilian companies, and the government also takes the responsibility to promote exports and lead the opening of markets," he stated.
Sardinha also wants to promote cultural exchange. He recalled, for example, that Brazilian architect Oscar Niemeyer has designed architectural projects in the country, such as the University of Constantine, and will also sign the project for the future Library of South America-Arab Countries, to be built in Algiers. Before traveling to São Paulo, the ambassador visited Niemeyer's firm in Rio de Janeiro.
In the political field, the ambassador said that relations between the two countries are extremely positive and reflect the personal relation between presidents Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva and Abdelaziz Bouteflika, which have presided together over the 1st Summit of South America-Arab Countries (Aspa), held in Brasília in 2005.
Sardinha stated that several ministerial visits from one country to the other have been taking place, the latest of which was the trip of the Brazilian minister of Development, Industry and Foreign Trade, Miguel Jorge, to Algiers in January this year. The ambassador was a member of the delegation.
He added that the two countries usually take synchronized action in the international organizations of which they are members, and that he has already witnessed examples of that at the United Nations and at the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO). "This makes our work easier," he said.
Sardinha, 53, is married, has three adult children and two granddaughters. He holds a degree in Law and has occupied diplomatic positions in Rome, in Italy, La Paz, in Bolivia, Managua, in Nicaragua, New York, in the United States, and Ottawa, in Canada.