Brazil president seeks to calm fears over meat sales, exports

Brazilian President Michel Temer and Angola’s Ambassador Nelson Manuel Cosme eat barbecue in a steak house in Brasilia after a meeting with ambassadors from countries that import Brazilian meat, on Sunday. (AFP)
Updated 20 March 2017
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Brazil president seeks to calm fears over meat sales, exports

BRASILIA: Brazil tried to reassure the world Sunday that its huge meat industry poses no threat — with President Michel Temer even inviting ambassadors to a steak dinner — despite allegations that corrupt exporters sold tainted products.
Temer smiled as he invited diplomats to a traditional Brazilian meat restaurant called a churrascaria, saying “if you accept the invitation we will be very happy.” Nineteen of the 33 envoys who met with him accepted the offer. But Temer had the serious mission of calming a scandal threatening the reputation of the world’s biggest beef and poultry exporting nation.
The scare started Friday when police said a two-year probe had found major meat producers bribed health inspectors to certify tainted food as fit for consumption.
At least 30 people have been arrested, with police raiding more than a dozen processing plants and issuing 27 arrest warrants.
A poultry-processing plant run by the multinational BRF group and two meat-processing plants operated by the local Peccin company were shut down, the Agriculture Ministry said.
Brazilian meat is exported to more than 150 countries, with principal markets as far apart as Saudi Arabia, China, Singapore, Japan, Russia, the Netherlands and Italy. Sales in 2016 reached $5.9 billion in poultry and $4.3 billion in beef, according to Brazilian government data.
In his address to the ambassadors, Temer acknowledged that the scandal had generated “major concern.”
But he insisted that the bad meat and faked certificates occurred in only “a very few businesses” and did not represent a wider problem.
Calling Brazil’s inspection system “one of the most respected” in the world, Temer said: “I want to reiterate our confidence in the quality of our products.”
In 2016, 853,000 consignments of animal products were exported, Temer said, yet “just 184 of them were deemed by importers to be in violation.”
Earlier, Luis Eduardo Pacifici Rangel, secretary of agricultural protection, told reporters that there was “no risk for population, neither for exports.”
Brazil is worried the scandal will hurt attempts to negotiate a trade deal between South America’s Mercosur group with the EU.
The EU ambassador to Brazil, Joao Cravinho, tweeted on Sunday that he wanted “complete, urgent clarifications from the agriculture ministry.”
The authorities have not yet detailed where tainted products were found, but say that in some cases carcinogenic substances were used to mask the smell of bad meat.
In addition to the giant BRF firm, which owns the Sadia and Perdigao brands, companies under investigation include JBS, a world leader in meat sales and owner of the Big Frango, Seara Alimentos and Swift brands.
JBS took out a full-page ad in the newspaper O Globo to say that the federal office conducting the investigation had made no mention of health problems stemming from JBS products. The BRF group is running similar ads, saying its products pose no health risk “whatsoever.”


Abu Dhabi, Shanghai plan exchange focusing on China trade

Updated 20 min 26 sec ago
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Abu Dhabi, Shanghai plan exchange focusing on China trade

DUBAI: The emirate’s international financial center, has agreed in principle with the Shanghai Stock Exchange to cooperate in establishing an exchange focusing on China’s foreign trade and investment, ADGM said on Monday.
The partners signed a memorandum of understanding to develop the exchange in Abu Dhabi. It would cater to companies and investors involved in China’s Belt and Road initiative, a Beijing-backed drive to win trade and investment deals along routes linking China to Europe.
“At ADGM, we have the international platform to serve different kinds of enterprises and investors — global, regional and local — seeking exposure to the Middle East and North Africa and Belt and Road projects,” said Richard Teng, chief executive of ADGM’s Financial Services Regulatory Authority.
Teng said he could not give specifics of which instruments the new exchange would trade or when it might open, saying this would depend on demand among stakeholders in both ADGM and Shanghai.
Chinese financial institutions have approached ADGM to discuss the financial environment in Abu Dhabi and their development needs in the six-nation Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), he added.
Trade and investment ties between China and the GCC have been growing rapidly. The region is a big oil supplier to China, and Sino-United Arab Emirates trade exceeded $46 billion in 2016, according to Beijing’s official Xinhua news agency.
Ultimately, the new exchange will support not only the Belt and Road initiative but also the internationalization of the Chinese yuan in the region, Teng said.
Abu Dhabi is trying to build up ADGM, which opened in October 2015 and is smaller than the international financial center in neighboring Dubai, as part of a drive to develop its economy beyond oil exports.