RIYADH: Saudi Arabia and Brazil are influential countries regionally and internationally. Saudi Arabia is Brazil’s largest trading partner in the Arab world, while Brazil is projected to become one of the world’s largest oil producers by 2030.
Jair Bolsonaro, currently on his first visit to Saudi Arabia as president of Brazil, told Arab News that his country is working to consolidate its position as the Kingdom’s main partner in South America, and to take “our relationship to an entirely new level.”
He said Brazil will continue to play a prominent role in the Kingdom’s food security, and expressed hope that with the signing of new agreements in such areas as science, technology and cultural exchanges, his visit will help broaden cooperation between the two countries.
Q Saudi Arabia and Brazil enjoy cordial relations. How crucial is your maiden visit in terms of enhancing bilateral ties?
AThe fact that I am paying this visit in the first year of my presidential term is a sign of the high importance the Brazilian government attaches to the Arab world, and Saudi Arabia in particular. Brazil is working to consolidate its position as the main partner of Saudi Arabia in South America, and to take our relationship to an entirely new level.
Our two countries have been enjoying a traditional relationship for more than 50 years, with a mutually beneficial nature. The Brazilian agribusiness sector is a source of food security to Saudi Arabia, and Brazil relies on imports of Saudi oil to meet its energy needs. Our relationship is already very good, but the time has come to make it great.
With regard to financial cooperation, Brazil welcomes Saudi Arabia’s objective to become a global investment powerhouse, and has been attracting the attention of Saudi investors for the many opportunities it offers, especially in the field of infrastructure.
Brazil and Saudi Arabia are both undergoing modernizing reforms, have converging interests, and should seek an even stronger partnership, with the aim of supporting each other’s development. This trip is the first step to revolutionize our relationship.
Q What are the major bilateral agreements planned during this visit?
AThis visit will help to broaden cooperation between Brazil and Saudi Arabia, and the agreements we are working on reflect this new and promising reality. We are hoping to sign with the Saudi government instruments in areas such as science, technology and innovation; investment promotion; cultural exchanges; the defense industry; trade promotion; and visa facilitation.
Q What are the key areas where you see there is a need to further enhance bilateral cooperation?
AThe agribusiness sector in Saudi Arabia offers many opportunities. and there is a growing interest among Brazilian companies in exploring the Saudi market. More Brazilian companies are establishing themselves in Saudi Arabia, by far the largest market in the region.
Likewise, the natural complementarity between the two economies is a powerful driver of Saudi investment in Brazil. Defense is also an area in which there certainly can be increased bilateral cooperation.
Q Saudi Arabia and Brazil are influential countries regionally and internationally, with both being G20 members. Do you think cooperation should be intensified further, and in which areas?
ABrazil has been playing an active role in the G20, which we consider to be the leading international forum for economic cooperation. The priorities for Saudi Arabia’s presidency in 2020 will allow for constructive debates on global economic and trade issues. We look forward to engaging in discussions on infrastructure and development finance, as well as other topics of relevance to the promotion of economic growth.
Q Saudi Arabia and Brazil are oil-producing countries, with the Kingdom being a major producer. They have important roles in the oil market. Is there some joint cooperation expected? Can Brazil reconsider its decision to join OPEC+ anytime soon?
A Brazil is projected to be, until 2030, one of the world’s largest oil producers, exporting up to 3.5 million barrels per day.
Our production of natural gas will substantially increase as well, with the building of the necessary largescale infrastructure to explore gas reserves in the pre-salt layer. Since these developments will happen 10 years from now, Brazil is not yet considering to join any international oil organizations.
Meanwhile, Brazil is ready to continue to cooperate with OPEC members, and our relations with Saudi Arabia are a clear indication of that. We would like to see Saudi Arabia investing
in oil refining in Brazil and participating in our oil-bidding rounds, taking all its experience to our oil and gas market, a decision that would certainly benefit both our countries.
Q Saudi Arabia is undergoing major reforms in line with Vision 2030. Do you see a role for Brazil in working with the Kingdom on Vision 2030 projects?
AI am impressed with Vision 2030 and its inspiring blueprint for the future of Saudi Arabia. In Brazil, we are also focused on implementing an ambitious agenda of reforms, to restore fiscal balance, improve the business environment and promote trade openness.
The results of our efforts are starting to show. Recently, the National Congress approved the largest pension reform ever made in the Western world, an essential step to lay the basis for sustained growth. Our administration has been taking a number of measures to cut red tape and stimulate the private sector. Mercosur, the South American trade bloc, has reached a historic deal with the EU.
The Brazilian economy is growing again, and the prospects for the coming years are encouraging. Brazil and Saudi Arabia share a long-term commitment to transform their economies and prepare for 21st-century challenges. We should maintain a permanent dialogue in order to exchange experiences on our modernization efforts, partnering and cooperating to develop
new technologies, scientific breakthroughs and innovation in general.
With all the reforms I am promoting, Brazil is becoming one of the hottest countries in the world to invest. As such, I would like to see it become Saudi Arabia’s main partner in Latin America and the developing world, in the context of the much-welcome Vision 2030.
Q Saudi Arabia is a major economic partner for Brazil in the Middle East, especially in the agricultural sector. Do you think there is a need to diversify opportunities?
A Bilateral trade between Brazil and Saudi Arabia reached $4.4 billion in 2018. This figure makes Saudi Arabia Brazil’s largest trading partner in the Arab world, and Brazilian agribusiness products amount to a significant part of our trade. Brazilian exports of frozen chicken meat, for example, were worth $800 million. Brazil is ready to continue to play a prominent role in the food security of Saudi Arabia.
At the same time, I do believe there is a lot of space to explore further opportunities to bring our economies closer and make it more diverse. There are new products and areas in agribusiness we should explore, and there are certainly a lot of new opportunities in other sectors that should be on the table every time we meet.
We already see Saudi investments in Brazil in areas such as mining, plastics and pipe systems. And one of the main purposes of my visit is to invite Saudi Arabia’s sovereign wealth funds to strengthen their presence and participate in large infrastructure projects, from roads and railways to ports and airports.
I am confident that Brazil and Saudi Arabia can work together to identify additional economic complementarities and launch the foundations for a new cycle of shared prosperity for our peoples. I firmly believe that this trip will be the first step in building an even better, deeper and richer partnership, reflecting the visions His Royal Highness Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and I have for our countries.