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Brazilian Universities Wake Up to Brazil’s 5th Largest Partners: the Arabs

The Seminar of Business, Investment and Arab Culture, which took place yesterday, August 29, in Campinas, in the interior of the southeastern Brazilian state of São Paulo, attracted the attention of professors and students in the region and generated interest in taking the Arab question into universities.

"The idea is to work together with universities in the medium and long term," stated the superintendent of Jerusalem Institute, Ali El Khatib, one of the organizers of the event.

The seminar received around 200 people, most Foreign Trade, Journalism, Public Relations and International Relations students. According to El Khatib, after the event, some students and professors from the Paulista University of Campinas (Unip) and Paulí­nia College (FACP) told him about their interest in proceeding with the work at their schools.

"Other universities of Campinas are also showing interest in the seminar on business and Arab culture," stated El Khatib, referring to Campinas College (Facamp) and the Pontifical Catholic University of Campinas (PUC), among others.

One of the presentations was by the secretary general at the Arab Brazilian Chamber of Commerce, Michel Alaby, who discussed the part played by the organization and the potential of the Arab market.

"The Arab world is the fifth main Brazilian trade partner," stated Alaby. Last year, foreign sales to the region totaled US$ 5.2 billion and imports reached US$ 5.3 billion. "This year bilateral trade should reach US$ 12.5 billion, an increase of 20%," added Alaby.

According to him, it is necessary to generate in businessmen and students interest in the foreign market. "Our challenge is to diversify the trade basket to the Arabs and to bring Arab products to Brazil," stated Alaby.

Agroindustrial products are currently responsible for 50% of the Brazilian trade basket with the region. However, the country already sells, at lower levels, auto parts, cosmetics, furniture, shoes, garments, construction material and pharmaceutical products. Imports by the Arabs of Brazilian products, however, represent just 1.6% of their total imports.

Another presentation was by the deputy chancellor of extension and community affairs at the University of Campinas (Unicamp), Mohamed Habib, who spoke about the Arab influence on Brazil. He started his talk with a picture of the Municipal Market of Campinas, which was built in Arab style. "Arab culture in Brazil is present in music, architecture and gastronomy," stated Habib.

During his presentation, Habib stated that the Arabs have known Brazil since before the country was given the name. "Arab sailors had already reached the coast of South America before Pedro ílvares Cabral (who discovered the country in 1500)," he said.

The professor also added that it was in the 19th century that the great Arab migratory movements began. "The number of Lebanese and their descendents living in Brazil is now much larger than the population of the country," he said. There are nine million Lebanese and their descendents in Brazil, against 3.6 million in Lebanon.

The seminar also counted on the presence of the head of the Brazilian Halal Food Company, Mohamed Hussein El-Zoghbi, who discussed the importance of halal slaughter, in which the animals are killed following Islamic regulations.

"Halal means permitted food. The Muslims only eat healthy food," he said. According to El-Zoghbi, the slaughter is executed in just one movement cutting the jugular.

This does not permit the animal to suffer. "The idea is that the whole of the animal’s blood must flow out of its body as that is where the impurities are," he explained.

Apart from halal procedures, the reconstruction of Lebanon was also discussed by company Solidere, as was the economical and social part played by the Arabs in Brazil and the work of the Water Supply and Sanitation Company of Campinas (SANASA).

The next event to be promoted by Jerusalem Institute of Brazil, about musical concerts and Arab dance, will take place on October 06, at 8:30 pm, at the Municipal Theater of the Campinas Cultural Companionship Center. Over the last 25 years the city has promoted activities turned to Arab culture.

Anba

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