Time for a Strong Brazil-Arab Business Connection

The head of the trade mission from five Arab countries which is in São Paulo to negotiate with Brazilian companies, Thabet A. Taher, supported February 14, during the seminar that opened the business roundtables organized by the Arab Brazilian Chamber of Commerce (CCAB), the creation of trade agreements between the Arab and South American nations in an effort to amplify the economic relations between the two regions.

“Two years ago Jordan signed a deal with the United States. In this period exports to the USA increased from about US$ 200 million to US$ 1 billion in 2004. The treaty worked well. Then why not have similar agreements with the countries in South America?” he said after the seminar.


Taher, who is the former minister of Mines and Energy in Jordan and is currently the vice president of the Jordanian Businessmen Association and the secretary general of the Federation of Arab Businessmen, recalled that two Arab nations, Egypt and Morocco, are already negotiating tariff preference agreements with the Mercosur – bloc formed by Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay and Paraguay -, and suggested that Jordan start a similar process with Brazil. “It would be a first step,” he stated.


With this in mind, Taher suggested that the Federation of Arab Businessmen and the CCAB create an economic cooperation council. The federation represents 11 associations of businessmen from 10 Arab countries.


“With this council we could develop the cooperation between Brazil and the Arab world as a whole, not only on a single country level,” he stated. For him, the great Arab community living in Brazil can also serve as a “bridge” to strengthen the relationships.


The president of the CCAB, Antonio Sarkis Jr., said the mission of businessmen from Jordan, Yemen, Lebanon, Iraq and Palestine that is visiting São Paulo may represent a first step in the creation of this council.


Summit


Taher also said that the summit for the Arab and South American heads of state, which will take place in May in Brasí­lia, capital city of Brazil, should give impulse to the economic relations between the two regions. Sarkis added that the CCAB plans on organizing an event in São Paulo for the businessmen who will participate in the authorities’ delegations.


“We believe that together with the delegations many Arab businessmen will come. Therefore we are planning an event together with the Arab Ambassadors’ Council in Brazil. We will meet with the council, in Brasí­lia, to structure the event,” stated the president of the CCAB.


Competitive Brazil


Sarkis presented, to an audience of about 200 Arab and Brazilian entrepreneurs at the Renaissance Hotel, in São Paulo, a picture of the Brazilian economy.


“Brazil currently represents an excellent opportunity, for the competitive and diversified export basket, varying from foods to manufactured goods,” he said.


“In 2004, the Brazilian economy grew about 5%, a result greatly owed to exports, which increased 32% in relation to 2003,” he highlighted.


The president of the CCAB recalled that the global trade between Brazil and the Arab countries passed US$ 8.1 billion in 2004 and stated that this exchange could well pass US$ 10 billion.


Taher said that the Arab countries may find in Brazil the same products they buy from the developed countries, such as the United States and Canada.


“There is space to develop economic relations between Brazil and the Arab countries,” added the general director of the Federation of Arab Businessmen, Ali Yousef.


The secretary general of the CCAB, Michel Alaby, in his turn, supported partnerships between the businessmen. “A single hand cannot clap. The partnership makes the two hands clap,” he said.


Investments


As well as trade, Taher also promoted joint investments between Brazilian and Arab countries. Talking specifically about Jordan, he said his country offers a good regulatory environment and opportunities in the fields of mining, fertilizers, pharmaceutical industry, agribusiness, services, information technology and tourism.


“I wish to make an invitation to the Brazilian entrepreneurs to go to Jordan and see what can be done. There are good opportunities,” he said. “The country is geographically well located and can be used as a distribution center for the countries in Asia and nations in the region, such as Iraq,” he stated.


The Jordanian ambassador in Brasí­lia, Faris Mufti, added that his country has on the shores of the River Jordan an industrial district where the factories installed may export to the United States without paying taxes, as long as part of the inputs used are imported from Israel, since the deal for the duty-free zone involves the three countries.


“The Chinese have invested there. If they did it, why can’t the Brazilians do it?” he asked. The majority of the factories installed in the region, according to him, are of the textile sector.


Translated by Silvia Lindsey
ANBA ”“ Brazil-Arab News Agency

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