The interim vice-Premier of Israel and the Israeli Minister of Industry, Commerce, and Labor, Ehud Olmert, visited the Federation of Industry of the State of São Paulo, Brazil, (Fiesp) March 10 for a meeting with entrepreneurs.
Accompanied by 20 representatives of Israeli companies, Olmert came to discuss a proposal for a free trade agreement between Israel and the Mercosur, the trade bloc formed by Brazil, Argentina, Paraguay, and Uruguay.
Besides the formation of a free trade area, the other questions broached at the encounter were the advantages and potentialities of Israeli industry, that country’s current positive economic situation, cooperation between the Fiesp and the Israeli Industrial Association, and exchanges among entrepreneurs from both countries.
The trade balance between the two countries totaled US$ 683 million in 2004. Brazil exported US$ 206 million, 60% more than in 2003, while it imported US$ 477 million, 31% more than in the previous year.
In referring to a possible partnership between the Mercosur and Israel, Olmert observed that “Israel is the biggest buyer of European products in the Middle East.
“With its 6.5 million inhabitants, with an annual per capita income of US$ 18 thousand, compared to the US$ 1 thousand annual per capita income of the inhabitants of Arab countries, the Israelis’ purchasing power is very great, and this makes Israel a good business partner.”
Olmert said that he was pleased about his visit to Brazil and classified it as fruitful. He also commended President Lula for supporting the creation of a free trade area between Israel and the Mercosur.
When asked about the prospects for a partnership, Olmert affirmed emphatically that “there is an enormous potential for cooperation in specific areas, such as biotechnology, telecommunications, agribusiness, fertilizers, nanotechnology, and informatics. There are very solid foundations for this to develop.”
Olmert proposed to President Lula “the creation of a binational fund for research and development, similar to the funds that Israel already maintains with 12 other countries.”
Translation: David Silberstein