To consolidate trade between Egypt and Brazil it is necessary to find equilibrium in the trade balance between the two countries. This is the opinion of the Brazil-Egypt Business Council coordinator, Ashraf El-Attal, a great importer of Brazilian products and Brazilian Honorary Consul in Alexandria.
by Randa Achmawi
“Nowadays our trade is of about US$ 500 million. But, unfortunately, even with the perspectives of a great increase at the end of the year, export volumes from Brazil to Egypt are much greater than the other way around. This situation has to change,” he said at an interview to ANBA.
In fact, the bilateral trade between Brazil and Egypt was of US$ 496.6 million in 2003, and has already reached US$ 446.2 million from January to August this year. Brazilian exports, however, dominate the bilateral relationship.
During the first eight months of this year, Brazilian exports yielded US$ 420.4 million, against US$ 25.8 million from Egypt. Egypt is Brazil’s third buyer amongst the Arab countries, after Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.
Attal’s point of view is that although trade between the two countries is increasing, effort from both sides is necessary to ensure all business opportunities are seized.
It was with this intent that the business council was created, in December 2003 when president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva visited Cairo. About 30 Brazilian and Egyptian businessmen form the council. Attal coordinates the Egyptian side.
One of the plans of action, as was anticipated by ANBA in March, is to organize a trade show of Egyptian products in Brazil, to happen at the same time as the summit between the heads of state from the Arab and South American countries, which should take place in April 2005.
“It was the Brazilians themselves who emphasized the need to increase Egyptian exports to Brazil. The idea was raised last March, during the Brazilian Export Promotion Agency’s president last visit to Egypt, together with Paulo Atallah (president of the Arab Brazilian Chamber of Commerce).
“I went with them to meet Youssef Boutrus Ghaly, Minister of Economy at the time, and we proposed that 20 to 25 Egyptian companies go to Brazil to participate at the fair”, said the entrepreneur.
According to him, these companies will be selected and must have products that meet Brazilian demands in terms of quality and price.
He added that the new Minister of Economy, Rachid Mohamed Rachid, who has been the Brazilian honorary consul, has demonstrated great interest in participating in this fair.
Before that, however, Rachid should come to Brazil in the beginning of 2005 to work on the free trade agreement being negotiated between Egypt and the Mercosur, the Common Market of the South, a customs union between Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay, and Paraguay.
Even though the trade balance between the two countries is favourable to Brazil, Attal said it is also important to diversify Brazilian exports to Egypt, and to include products with higher added value.
“It is important that we develop a trade culture on both sides, Egyptian and Brazilian. Here in Egypt, little is known about Brazil. For most Egyptians, Brazil is about coffee, sugar and football.
“Just a few people know that Brazil has high technology expertise in many areas, which can be exported at lower prices than by the rich countries. Before going to Brazil for the first time in 2000, I had no idea of what was manufactured in the country” declared Attal.
He acknowledges however, that the situation is changing. “Nowadays, especially during the last three months, we find more and more Brazilian equipment in Egypt. I noticed this in the rice mills, an area I work with directly. I also know that all those working with Brazilian products are immensely satisfied,” he stated.
Attal said one of the best ways to bring the two countries closer together is to stimulate tourism. “It is always very difficult, to go from Egypt to Brazil on vacation, and the same happens with Brazilians who wish to travel to Egypt.
“So I ask myself, why not create conditions that will simplify tourism between the countries? I am sure that this is also a way to stimulate cooperation. If an Egyptian businessman goes to Brazil on vacation he could easily become interested in doing business in the country,” he concluded.
ANBA ”“ Brazil-Arab News Agency