BUILDING BRIDGES WITH BRAZIL
FROM FOOD SECURITY AND FOREIGN POLICY TO SPORTS AND CULTURE, MANY TIES UNITE THE FAR-FLUNG AND DIAMETRICALLY OPPOSITE COUNTRIES OF QATAR AND BRAZIL. IN THIS EXCLUSIVE WITH QATAR TODAY, HIS EXCELLENCY THE AMBASSADOR OF BRAZIL TO QATAR TADEU VALADARES ELABO
From food security and foreign policy to sports and culture, many ties unite the far-flung and diametrically opposite countries of Qatar and Brazil. In this exclusive with Qatar Today, His Excellency the Ambassador of Brazil to Qatar Tadeu Valadares elaborates on this multi-faceted bond.
We are bang in the middle of the 2014 Qatar-Brazil Year of Culture. Officially launched on January 27 of this year and in the presence of His Excellency Dr Hamad Al Kuwari, Minister of Culture, Arts and Heritage of the State of Qatar (who has also served as Ambassador of Qatar to Brazil), what a year to celebrate our commonalities! Like all eyes around the world, Qatar's too turned to Brazil for the 2014 FIFA World Cup, not only to join in and commemorate the spirit of the game but also to observe, learn and understand, for when our time comes in 2022. But that was just the beginning. From fashion design and food to art and photography, Brazilians and Qataris enthusiastically embraced the common platforms to discover and share ideas. On this note, we caught up with His Excellency Ambassador Tadeu Valadares who insists that, though diplomatic ties between the two countries might be in their infancy (diplomatic relations were established way back in 1974, Brazil opened its embassy in Doha only in 2005 and Qatar, after a temporary eight-year hiatus shortly after it opened its embassy in Brasilia in 1997, reopened its diplomatic post in 2007), both have “come a long way in terms of increasing and strengthening political, tourist, commercial, and cultural ties.” The congruence in the fundamental way the two countries view the future and their place in it has helped speed this relationship along. “Both our countries share a sharp view of the future. In terms of foreign policy, we are committed to building a more democratic and pluralistic international community, an environment where the once-called “peripheral” countries deserve to be heard, a global structure where emerging countries will prosper and thrive,” he says.
Trades and ties
This underlying common philosophy has been continually cemented with several and frequent high-level visits and delegations between the two. “His Highness the Father Emir, HH Sheikh Hamid bin Khalifa Al Thani visited Brazil in 2010 and last September, HH Sheikha Moza bint Nasser led a high-level Qatari delegation to Pará, in the Amazon region. Former President of Brazil Luís Inácio Lula da Silva was in Doha in 2009, 2010 and 2012,” Ambassador Valadares mentions. “In addition to this, there has been exchange of important delegations for events like Doha Goals, WISE and World Social Security Forum” As recently as March 2014, the Governor of the Brazilian Federal District, Agnelo Queiroz, signed a memorandum of understanding in Qatar
TWO QATARI MISSIONS WERE SENT TO BRAZIL IN THE CONTEXT OF THE WORLD CUP: THREE SUPREME COMMITTEE FOR DELIVERY AND LEGACY REPRESENTATIVES WHO PARTICIPATED IN A MONITORING OPERATION LAST YEAR IN APRIL, AND A SECOND ONE SENT DURING THE TOURNAMENT CONSISTING OF MORE THAN 100 PEOPLE FROM THE COMMITTEE, ASHGHAL, THE MINISTRY OF INTERIOR, ETC.
with the Municipality of Doha, exploring “bilateral convergent interests of Brasília and Doha in several spheres, such as the use of advanced technologies in order to better public services offered to citizens”.
While all this was happening, bilateral trade was burgeoning at an unprecedented rate. “Between 2009 and 2013 the total bilateral trade grew 315%, jumping from $221 million (QR805 million) to $915 million (QR3.33 billion),” the Ambassador says, noting that this was mainly due to a considerable growth in Brazilian imports, making it the 17th largest market for Qatari exports. “Brazil imports a significant amount of Liquefied Natural Gas and fertilizers, whereas major Qatar imports consist of iron ore, aluminum and food, mostly poultry,” he added.
Brought together by business
Brazil aims at being a valuable partner to Qatar in its pursuit of food security. Already a major exporter of food to Qatar and with known competency in producing agriculture machinery, Brazil has “real potential in terms of expanding its presence here”, according to Ambassador Valadares, who continues, “especially if we manage to better explore the opportunities that exist due to food and beverage consumption generated by the demand of Qatar´s growing population.”
Apart from this, Brazilian businesses are aware of the market opportunities thrown open in Qatar due to its vast infrastructure expansion. “Brazilian entrepreneurs have a recognised expertise in terms of designing and developing huge projects, from roads to airports, hydroelectric power plants, entire cities, and so on,” he mentions, indicating that it can be put to good use here.
Conversely, he points out that the thriving Brazilian investment climate is ready for big players like Qatar to jump in, as they have in the recent past. “Brazil, like Qatar, is undergoing major expansion in its infrastructure and offers good opportunities for Qatar Investments Authority and other Qatari financial actors. In fact, Qatar Investment Authority is already present in Brazil, mainly in the real estate and financial sectors. So far, the highest Qatari investments in Brazil have been the acquisition of the World Trade Center São Paulo, in March 2012, by TFI-Hines [Brazil Income Real Estate Fund]; and the purchase of $2.7 billion (QR9.8 billion) in Santander Brazil bonds (5% of the share capital of the bank) by Qatar Holding in October 2010.” The Brazilian Congress has recently passed new and more flexible legislation concerning foreign ownership in the country's ports and the Ambassador considers the modernisation of Brazil's ports another area that Qatari investors could potentially find attractive.
A year to remember
More than commercial and political ties, the Ambassador appears genuinely interested in discussing the efforts to bring together the peoples and cultures of the two countries, especially through the 2014 Qatar-Brazil Year of Culture. Calling it “a major cultural and intellectual joint effort”, Ambassador Valadares counts among its successes the special Qatar-Brazil pavilion at Qatar International Food Festival (QIFF) last March at the MIA Park and the photography exchange which resulted in “Qatar-Brazil: a journey from the Amazon to the Desert” in Katara. He also highlights the Brazilian Cinema Showcase at the Museum of Islamic Art, where every month Doha Film Institute screens the best picks from Brazilian cinema. “I would definitely recommend keeping an eye on the calendar for the Showcase, as we will still have plenty of good Brazilian movies to be screened in Doha during the year,” he says.
But perhaps the most exciting part of the exchange culminated in June and July of this year with the FIFA World Cup Brazil, giving experts in Qatar the chance to share first-hand the Brazilian experience concerning preparations for this mega event. “Two Qatari missions were sent to Brazil in the context of the World Cup. Last April, three Supreme Committee for Delivery and Legacy representatives participated in a Monitoring Operation organized by the Government of Brazil. The second Qatari mission was sent to Brazil during the tournament. It had more than 100 people, among Qatari nationals and expat government officials from institutions such as Ashghal, the Ministry of Interior and, of course, the Supreme Committee,” Ambassador Valadares says. “The mission was divided into five different groups that visited four Brazilian World Cup host cities. Besides, Qatar also organised a student exchange programme called 'Generation Amazing' where 22 young students were taken to Brazil during the World Cup, in order to gain experience simply by being present at the event.” He sincerely wishes that these missions will eventually come in handy for the Supreme Committee in its own process of preparing for the 2022 World Cup, expressing certainty that it will be a huge success