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07/06/2017 - 07:00hs

New ambassador in the UAE wants to attract investments

Fernando Igreja will soon take office in Abu Dhabi. For him, his largest challenge will be to generate interest regarding investments in projects in Brazil.

Alexandre Rocha/ANBA

Igreja (R) with Alaby: the UAE is of crucial importance to Brazil

São Paulo – Brazil’s new appointed ambassador in the United Arab Emirates, Fernando Igreja, will face as his greatest challenge the attraction of investments from the Gulf country to Brazil. The diplomat will travel to Abu Dhabi this month. This week, he is in São Paulo for meetings with companies, sector associations and government bodies to exchange information and to let them know the embassy is available. This Tuesday (6), Igreja visited the Arab Brazilian Chamber of Commerce, where he was welcomed by the organization’s CEO, Michel Alaby.

“In line with its political importance, the UAE has a crucial economic and commercial importance to Brazil”, said the ambassador in an interview to ANBA. “It’s a wealthy country that strongly searches for investment opportunities abroad. The great challenge will be to attract its interest and investments from entrepreneurs from the UAE to Brazil, to strengthen the ties in this sector,” he added.

In addition to the Arab Chamber, this Tuesday Igreja visited the Federation of Industries of the State of São Paulo (Fiesp), the office of the Dubai Chamber of Commerce & Industry in the city of São Paulo and the city’s Secretariat of International Affairs. On Wednesday (7), the diplomat will meet with business owners at the headquarters of the Arab Chamber.

For him, the sectors that could attract the most interest from investors from the UAE are agribusiness, infrastructure, defense and real estate. In agribusiness, the Gulf countries in general are searching for ventures abroad to secure the supply for their markets, since food production in the region is extremely insufficient.

“In the infrastructure area, Brazil needs investments and they can get interested,” said Igreja. There are already investments from the UAE in this sector in Brazil, for instance, in ports.

In the defense sector, small firearms company Caracal, from Abu Dhabi, announced the building of a plant in Goiás, and the National Defense Company Council, an organization that gathers the UAE’s defense firms, signed a cooperation agreement with the Brazilian Defense and Security Material Industries Association (Abimde) during a recent visit to Brazil by the UAE minister of State for Defense Affairs, Mohammed Bin Ahmed Al Bowardi.

The real estate sector, in turn, is a traditional focal point of Arab investors, and UAE’s funds have stakes in ventures in Brazil.

The ambassador also sees opportunities for three-pronged cooperation, with one country providing the investment, another providing the know-how and the actual project provided by a third. “We have extensive experience with international cooperation and they [the UAE] possess the resources,” he said. Talks for a technical cooperation agreement are underway between the two countries.

Trade is another field where Igreja believes progress could be made. Brazil-UAE trade amounted to USD 2.6 billion last year, with a surplus of over USD 1.8 billion on the Brazilian side, according to the Ministry of Industry, Foreign Trade and Services. The top-selling products from Brazil were sugar and poultry.

“There is a potential for bigger sales. The UAE are almost like a hub, so goods shipped in from Brazil can be re-exported to other countries later. And we have the chance to export higher value-added goods. The more we enhance our bilateral ties, the more our trade stands to increase,” the diplomat said.

Tourism can also grow bigger. Both countries recently entered into a visa waiver agreement which now pends ratification form the Brazilian Congress. According to Igreja, the draft now sits with the Chamber of Deputies, after which it will move on to the Senate. He expects ratification to come before the end of the year. “Leisure and business tourist flows could grow and grow,” he said.

Igreja envisions a potential for cultural cooperation, including translation of books from Portuguese into Arabic and vice versa.

Diplomatic crisis

The ambassador will arrive in Abu Dhabi at a delicate point in time. On Monday (5), Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, the UAE, Yemen and Egypt announced the severing of diplomatic ties with Qatar, on grounds that Doha supports so-called terrorist groups, which the Qataris deny. This Tuesday, the Brazilian Foreign Ministry released a statement calling on the nations to “resume talks to overcome the crisis” and to exercise “moderation so that regionwide stability can be achieved.”

Igreja believes the issue is “topical” and “momentary.” He pointed out that diplomatic misunderstandings have come and gone in the past with the countries involved. He stressed that the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) member countries relate to one another in peaceful terms.

“And it is important that they remain that way,” the ambassador said. The GCC is composed of Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Qatar, the UAE, Kuwait and Oman. “No one is interested in a bigger crisis. Such is the expectation of Brazil – which sustains excellent relations with all Gulf countries. It is in our interest that the issue be settled quickly and peacefully,” he said, adding that the problem will not affect relations between Brazil and any of the nations involved.

Igreja is aged 52, holds a degree in Law and has been a diplomat for 31 years. The Abu Dhabi post will be his first as ambassador, but he has served stints with Brazilian diplomatic representations in Lisbon, Mexico, Paris, Boston and Algiers. In the Algerian capital, he was in charge of the embassy’s commercial promotion department. From 2013 to 2016, the diplomat was head of protocol at the Brazilian Foreign Ministry. “I have had a very wide-ranging career so far. I have dealt with different issues, involving consulates, politics, economics, and a lot of trade in Algeria,” he said.

*Translated by Sérgio Kakitani & Gabriel Pomerancblum

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