How would you characterize the historical relationship between Brazil and Qatar, and what are its main pillars?
The presence of the Portuguese, who colonized what would become Brazil, in the Arabian Peninsula and in the Gulf shores dates back to the late 16th Century, but formal diplomatic relations between Brazil and Qatar had to wait for the latter's independence to be established, in the early 1970s. One of the chief purposes of my recent visit to Doha was to commemorate the 40th anniversary of the mutual official relations.
After the bilateral exchange of state visits in 2010 (His Highness Emir Hamad Al Thani's travel to Brasilia in January and President Lula's visit to Doha in May), the potential synergies between the two countries loomed and were further enhanced. The main pillars of the relationship are: investments; cooperation in energy; cooperation in education, sports and culture; and political dialogue between decision-makers in both countries.
Qatar and Brazil have also been very active in promoting the Summit of South American and Arab Countries (ASPA), by holding the first two Summits in Brasília (2006) and Doha (2009). This is an initiative that brings together two regions that share many cultural features and interest for social and economic development, for the preservation of the environment, and for an inter cultural dialogue.
Which areas of bilateral trade between Brazil and Qatar do you identify having the most potential for growth?
Both economies have considerable complementarity. Brazil is a major international supplier, not only of industrial goods, but also of foodstuff, including poultry and bovine meat, as well as other agricultural commodities of great demand in Qatar. Brazilian construction companies provide high quality standards in complex architectural projects that fully comply with Qatari consumer standards and needs, an asset that can be valuable, for instance, in projects related to the 2022 FIFA World Cup extensive infrastructure program.
On the other hand, Brazil is a net importer of air services provided by Qatar Airways, a demand that the Qatari carrier can hugely benefit if it adequately takes the business opportunities made available by the coming 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro. More importantly, Brazil has been, in the last five years, a significant consumer of Qatari natural gas, and both sides are in permanent discussion on how to improve this commercial relationship.
Besides the field of trade, in which other areas do you hope to see an increase of cooperation between Brazil and Qatar?
Brazil and Qatar share the very same vision about the pivotal role that the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals (MDG) in Education, Health and Social Development must play in our national strategies and priorities, as well as in our diplomatic efforts in international fora, including the so called “unfinished agenda" of the MDG. My meetings with His Highness Emir Tamim Bin Hamad al Thani and Her Highness Sheikha Moza bint Nasser in Doha, last November, have inspired me to include Qatari Colleges in the “Science without Borders" program, through which my Government provides scholarships to Brazilian students so they can receive their college and university degrees in prestigious international institutions.
Furthermore, Brazil and Qatar can develop a fruitful partnership by offering joint technical cooperation to third countries, especially in the agricultural, health, industrial, education and sports fields. In other words, this describes what the Emir and I agreed to call “Strategic Partnership".
Qatar continues to be a strong exporter of capital and has recently enhanced its relationships with Latin American countries. What opportunities does Brazil offer to Qatari investors?
Brazil is, and will continue to be for decades to come, a major absorber of FDI in infrastructure. We offer political stability, investment-friendly business environment, excellent rates of return on investment, and a huge and powerful consumer market. After the excellent levels of mutual dialogue and confidence the Brazilian and the Qatari public and entrepreneurial leaderships have achieved over the last years, I have no doubt that we are about to witness the emergence of a dense and result-oriented partnership in investment between the two countries. A good example of this business sentiment was the recent investment undertaken by a Qatari company in purchasing a billion dollar valued stake in the offshore oil and gas field of Parque das Conchas, in Brazil.