The Brazilian government is interested in negotiating a trade agreement with Algeria. The subject was part of the agenda for the meetings that the Brazilian minister of Foreign Relations, Celso Amorim, had with Algerian authorities in recent days in Algiers, capital of the Arab country.
"Who knows, maybe we will soon launch negotiations for a frame agreement in the commercial area between the Mercosur and Algeria, first for the concession of fixed tariff preferences, and further on for a free-trade agreement," stated the Amorim, according to information supplied by the Itamaraty (Brazilian foreign office).
In recent years, the Mercosur started similar negotiations with Egypt, Morocco and the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), a bloc comprised of Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Qatar, United Arab Emirates, Kuwait and Oman, including the signing of frame agreements. So far, however, none of the efforts were converted into actual trade agreements.
Nevertheless, Brazil already sustains cooperation agreements with Algeria in other areas, and during Amorim's visit six other were signed, three of which in the agricultural sector, two in the healthcare field, and one for small-sized companies.
During meetings with the Algerian president, Abdelaziz Bouteflika, and the prime minister, Abdelaziz Belkhadem, the chancellor discussed the launch of a "renewed partnership" between the two countries, "with strong bilateral cooperation in the fields of industrial development and agricultural production."
The idea is to reach beyond the topical agreements currently in effect and develop a broad partnership, including institutions such as the Brazilian Agricultural Research Corporation (Embrapa) and the Brazilian Agency for Industrial Development (ABDI). It is worth noting that Embrapa possesses vast accumulated knowledge about farming in the semi-arid, and that weather is dry in the majority of the Algerian territory.
Brazil is especially interested in achieving a more even balance of trade with Algeria, because there traditionally is a trade surplus for the Arab country, which is produces large volumes of oil and gas. Even with the rising Brazilian exports and basket diversification, the imbalance has remained due to high oil prices.
For the sake of illustration, exports from Brazil to Algeria totaled US$ 206 million from January to May this year, the main items shipped being sugar, frozen beef, grains, dairy products, machinery and parts, electric material, coffee, vehicles and auto parts, equipment for the defence industry, and paper.
Imports, on the other hand, surpassed US$ 1 billion during the period, the main products purchased by Brazil being oil and derivatives (which answer to nearly the entire basket), phosphates and leathers.
In that respect, in addition to the negotiation of agreements, Amorim told the president and the prime minister that Algeria should increase its imports from Brazil, naming as examples aeroplanes manufactured by Embraer. According to him, there is preliminary interest by a local airline named Tassili, which is linked to Sonatrach, the Algerian state-owned oil company.
The minister also talked about Brazilian investment in the country, and construction work underway in the country by companies from Brazil. Randon, a maker of highway implements, and Neobus, for buses, both own assembly lines in Algiers. Construction company Andrade Gutierrez, in turn, has a series of infrastructure works underway in the sector in Algerian territory.
Amorim also met with the deputy minister at the Ministry of Defence, Abdelmalek Guenaizia. They discussed possibilities for exchange in the field, and during the meeting they received a telephone call from the Brazilian minister of Defence, Nélson Jobim, who invited his Algerian counterpart to visit Brazil. According to the Brazilian foreign office (Itamaraty), there is mutual interest in cooperation in the military and territorial surveillance areas. Both countries, according to the Ministry of Foreign Relations, have vast and scarcely populated regions, distant and porous borders, and are threatened with the action of illegal groups.
The Itamaraty informed that Amorim also had an "instigating discussion" with president Bouteflika about the UN Security Council reform.
The foreign minister also participated in the meeting of the Brazil-Algeria Bilateral Mixed Commission, along with his Algerian colleague, Mourad Medelci.
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