“We’d rather buy from Brazil than from other places.” The statement was made by the Egyptian minister of Trade and Industry, Rachid Mohamed Rachid, to Brazilian and Egyptian businessmen gathered at the Semiramis Intercontinental Hotel, in Cairo, on April 15, for business meetings.
He claimed that his country has historical and traditional relations with the United States and Europe, and said that stronger relations have been established with Brazil as a result of a new context in Egyptian economy, one of development of an environment favorable to foreign investment and expansion of international trade.
The Egyptian minister, however, emphasized that said relations must benefit both sizes. Last year, for instance, Brazilian exports to the Egyptian market totaled US$ 1.44 billion, whereas imports amounted to US$ 87 million.
Speaking at the seminar, the Brazilian minister of Development, Industry and Foreign Trade, Miguel Jorge, stated that the Brazilian market is open to the Egyptians. “The Brazilian market is very open. Our tax rates on imports range from 10% to 12%,” he asserted. Miguel Jorge said that he will be expecting a trade mission from Egypt to Brazil.
As in Iran, the Brazilian minister stressed that Brazil needs fertilizer suppliers, because it has one of the world’s largest agricultural sectors and does not purchase the product from Egypt, which is a manufacturer. Miguel Jorge mentioned trade figures between Brazil and the Arab country, and said that more can be done.
According to him, Brazil is not only interested in trade with Egypt, but also in investment and partnerships. There already are Brazilian companies operating in Egypt – such as Marcopolo and soon, Randon -, as well as Egyptian ones in Brazil – there is an electric material manufacturing plant in the state of Minas Gerais.
Rachid underscored how relations between Egypt and Brazil have progressed in recent years. “Brazil used to be just an exotic place to us, because of the football, the coffee and the meat.” According to him, however, the country surprised the world with its performance, realistic view, and hard work.
He highlighted the presence and relevance of Brazil in global forums. Rachid compared the growth of Brazil to the progress that his country has made over the last few years. He drew laughter from the businessmen while speaking of other similarities. “We love music, the beach, vacations, and we do not work that much every once in a while,” he said.
The seminar, during which Rachid and Miguel Jorge gave their addresses, was held as part of the Brazilian trade mission’s schedule in Egypt and region, promoted by the Brazilian Ministry of Development. In addition to attending the opening of the business meetings, minister Miguel Jorge also met with the Egyptian minister of Foreign Affairs, Ahmed Ali Ahmed Abou Elgheif, with whom he discussed the strengthening of ties with Brazil.
According to the president of the Arab Brazilian Chamber of Commerce, Salim Schahin, who is on mission and sat through the meeting, Elgheif claimed that Brazil has not yet realized how good a market Egypt can be. He also claimed that his country is politically open to Brazil.
Miguel Jorge was also received by the minister of Agriculture and Land Reclamation, Amin Ahmed Mohamed Abaza, and by the secretary general of the Arab League, Amr Mussa. The secretary general praised the work of president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva for establishing closer ties with the Arab countries, and spoke of his “respect” to the Brazilian president.
“The Summit (of South American-Arab Countries) was very important,” said Schahin, who emphasized that the Arab Brazilian Chamber played an active role in preparing the latter two, and will do so again in the next one, to be held in Peru. The work of the organization was highlighted by the Brazilian ambassador to Cairo, Cesário Melantonio Neto, who attended the meeting.
According to him, the Chamber plays a key role in providing support to Arab ambassadors in Brazil, and to Brazilian ones in the Arab world. The importance of the Arab community in Brazil was another topic discussed.
Mussa stated that the work of the Syrian-Lebanese Hospital, for instance, is “fantastic.” The hospital is located in the city of São Paulo, was founded by the Arab community in Brazil, and is maintained by it as well.