Arab ambassadors were welcomed by governor Geraldo Alckmin at government seat Palácio dos Bandeirantes and discussed trade diversification, immigration ties and the peace process.
São Paulo – The state of São Paulo plays a key role in increasing trade between Brazil and the Arab countries. This was one of the subjects of a meeting of state governor Geraldo Alckmin (a member of party PSDB) and vice governor Márcio França (PSB) with members of the Council of Arab Ambassadors in Brazil this Tuesday (4) at the government seat Palácio dos Bandeirantes. The Arab ambassadors are in a trip to the state until next Thursday (6).
“Arab countries are major partners in trade with Brazil. Our trade with that region amounts to USD 20 billion, and São Paulo accounts for some 30% of that sum,” the Arab Brazilian Chamber of Commerce president Marcelo Sallum told the governor. He added that due to its production capacity and exportation level, the state’s trade numbers with Arab countries could be much bigger.
His opinion was seconded by the Arab Chamber International Relations vice president Osmar Chohfi. He noted that São Paulo is Brazil’s most economically diverse state, with an advanced agribusiness industry and industrial production. “São Paulo is the state that is best equipped to diversify exports from Brazil to the Arab world, since it manufactures high value-added goods,” the VP said.
Alckmin and Ibrahim Alzeben, dean of the Council of Arab Ambassadors in Brazil and ambassador of Palestine to Brasília, also expressed their willingness to increase trade. “In spite of all the crises, our ties remain strongly in place, and we are more willing than ever to boost our economic and political ties with you,” Alzeben asserted.
"Economic activity [in Brazil] will tend to rebound now, and here we have underscored the diversity of the São Paulo economy,” the governor said. “We are united around a political peace effort and to advance our economic partnership,” said Alckmin.
França speaks to Arab ambassadors -The vice governor mentioned the gas industry as one of the avenues whereby São Paulo trade with Arabs could increase. According to França, São Paulo uses 75% of all the gas consumed in Brazil, and the agreements with Bolivia, the current national supplier, will expire in two years’ time. He suggested that Arab countries apply to become gas suppliers to Brazil. “Brazilian commodities get shipped to Arab countries and the ships come back empty,” he said.
Sallum offered to provide an Arab Chamber study from a year ago that shows precisely how Brazil and Arab countries could put their trade routes to better use. The survey was made public at the Business Forum held on occasion of the Summit of South America-Arab Countries (Aspa) last year in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.
The Arab Chamber recently signed on to a deal with the São Paulo Investment Promotion Agency (Investe SP), and the partnership was mentioned at the meeting as a key step in furthering São Paulo’s economic relations with the Arab countries. Besides Sallum and Chohfi, the meeting was attended by the Arab Chamber’s CEO Michel Alaby and Market intelligence director Mauricio Borges.
Political relations - The Arab ambassadors expressed their willingness to advance their political relations with São Paulo and Brazil. The dean Alzeben called on Brazil to keep supporting the Palestinian cause. “We will never lose our hope in peace, and we hope to continue to rely on the support of this friendly country, Brazil,” the diplomat asserted. “Brazil has always taken a balanced stand regarding our causes, and we would like for it to remain that way,” said the Sudanese ambassador Ahmed Yousif Mohamed Elsiddig.
The ambassador of Jordan, Malek Twal, said the Arab world wants to enjoy peace the way Brazil does. “São Paulo is a role model because it embraces people from all over the world, of all creeds, and they all live in peace,” he said.
The governor spoke with the Arab diplomats of the friendship ties that bind São Paulo and the Arab world, since the state is home to many descendants, himself included. Alzeben replied that the Arabs are proud of the fact that São Paulo has a governor who is of Arab descent.