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22/02/2018 - 07:00hs

Brazil-Kuwait relations turned 50

In an interview with ANBA, the Brazilian ambassador to the Arab country, Norton Rapesta, champions more frequent visits by authorities, stressing that this would fuel deal-making.

São Paulo – Brazil’s diplomatic ties with Kuwait turned 50 in early February. A decree establishing relations was signed on February 8, 1968, as the first Embassy of Brazil in Kuwait opened its doors. ANBA spoke with the ambassador of Brazil in Kuwait Norton Rapesta, who’s also in charge of diplomacy with Bahrain.

Bruna Garcia/ANBA

Rapesta led the Brazilian delegation at a conference in Kuwait

The diplomat said Brazilian authorities need to visit Kuwait more often, more, and that no Brazilian president has ever been there. “If president Michel Temer were to include Kuwait in his trip to the region, which is in his plans for the first half of the year, that would be a historic visit,” he said. The ambassador said that “Arabs often say friends must visit each other a lot, even if these visits don’t last long,” and that this reflects on deal-making. 

“An embargo on Brazilian beef was put in place in 2010 and then lifted in May 2017, following a visit by Brazil’s Agriculture minister Blairo Maggi,” he pointed out. Maggi travelled to the Gulf countries, Kuwait included, to provide clarifications regarding the Brazilian Federal Police corruption probe Operation Weak Flesh, in a bid to prevent bans on Brazilian beef. As for poultry, Brazil supplies 85% of Kuwait’s needs.

Rapesta believes Brazilian business owners stand much to gain by visiting Gulf countries other than the United Arab Emirates. “Brazilian businesspeople will often go to Dubai and think that that takes care of everything, but

while they are there they could also go to Kuwait, as well as Qatar, Saudi Arabia and Bahrain, in order to see each country’s reality and business potential, because each of them is different.”

The ambassador said Brazil boasts soft power in the region through its music and culture. “In order to broaden our foothold we must diversify our exports, invest in science and technology and encourage investors to look to the Gulf countries,” he said.

Trade relations

Brazil exported over USD 222 million worth of goods to Kuwait in 2017. The bulk of it was poultry, maize and footwear. The total number was up 12.5% from 2016. Kuwait imported over USD 135 million from Brazil, down 52.9% from 2016, in mineral fuels and oils and fertilizer.

As for Bahrain, Brazil’s exports came out to USD 339 million last year, up 30.5% from 2016 and driven by iron ore and concentrate, artificial colorants, aluminum oxide and hydroxide, and poultry. Brazil imported close to USD 95 million from Bahrain in fertilizers, mineral fuels and oils, and aluminum, up 7.4%.

Rapesta said Bahrain is “an island sitting on petroleum” and one of the world’s biggest aluminum producers, and that “almost no one is aware of this.” He said wheels for BMW and Mercedes vehicles are made there, and that tourism is booming.

“Bahrain is a small country that’s looking for foreign investment, not in cash, but in technology, and that Brazil possesses the technology and know-how in several industries that they’re interested in, such as fish farming.” According to the ambassador, as long as Brazilian entrepreneurs will provide the knowledge, Bahrainis will surely invest. He concluded by saying that the same holds true of Kuwait. 

Diplomatic ties

In order to travel to Kuwait, Brazilian citizens must apply for a visa with the Embassy in Brasília. In trips to Bahrain, they simply get the visa on arrival. “They are interested in having Brazilians visit, so they’ve made entry easier.” I have requested reciprocity on Brazil’s part, it has been almost a year, but I haven’t got any answer yet.” Bahrainis travelling to Brazil must send their passports to the Embassy in Kuwait in order to get their visas; the same applies to Kuwaitis.

Regarding why the Conference for Reconstruction of Iraq was held in Kuwait, Rapesta – who headed the Brazilian delegation – said that this was not just due to commercial issues. “Kuwait looks to portray itself as a well-balanced, generous country that’s concerned with its neighbors, its Arab brothers.” He also said the reconstruction of Iraq is key so that citizens can envision a future, and thereby stop violence and religious fanaticism throughout the region.

Rapesta has been stationed in Kuwait for a year and a half now. He has served stints as ambassador in Finland and Angola. Hesaid Kuwait is a reliable country with hefty political capital that’s highly regarded by its Gulf neighbors.

*Translated by Gabriel Pomerancblum

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