Your Excellency Minister Nizar bin Obaid Madani,
Your Excellency Undersecretary General for Political Affairs III, Ambassador Paulo Cordeiro,
Members of the Saudi delegation,
Members of the Brazilian delegation,
Colleagues, ladies and gentlemen,
On behalf of the Brazilian Government I wish to welcome Your Excellency Minister Nizar bin Obaid Madani, and the relevant Saudi delegation, to our bilateral joint commission.
We recognize the effort involved in bringing to Brazil such a large and representative delegation, headed by Your Excellency, but we believe the circumstances justify that effort. This event will have a multiplier effect for the already very close and increasingly promising relations between Brazil and Saudi Arabia.
I wish to express my personal satisfaction, Minister Madani, with your return to Brasilia in such a short space of time. As a sign of great interest in our country, Your Excellency came to Brasilia in January as a special envoy of the Saudi Government to the inauguration ceremony of President Dilma Rousseff for her second term. This reinforces the condition of Your Excellency as a privileged interlocutor of the Kingdom to the Brazilian Government.
This is the first meeting of the Joint Bilateral Commission under the auspices of the General Cooperation Agreement signed in 2009 by President Lula and the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques, His Majesty King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz al Saud, recently deceased. His loss is still strongly felt, particularly because of the key role he played in the Brazil-Saudi Arabia relationship, due to his official visit to Brazil in the year 2000. That visit raised our relationship to a new level – a level on which we are today continuing to build.
It is also very appropriate to recall the first meeting of the first bilateral joint commission, held in Jeddah in 1979, when a large Brazilian delegation travelled to the Kingdom to discuss a broad range of issues.
The Saudi Arabian delegation we receive today is composed of high-level representatives of various ministries and agencies of the Saudi Government. On the Brazilian side, the preparations for this meeting involved more than 14 ministries and government agencies, and approximately 100 officials from seven different Brazilian states and from Brasilia, our capital.
Our agenda is substantial and diverse: cooperation in the areas of oil and minerals, agriculture, health and education; technical, economic and commercial cooperation; sports; air services, culture and museology; and joint cooperation initiatives in third countries. These are some of the areas in which we have moved forward substantially during the past week of technical visits and bilateral meetings.
At the end of this meeting we will celebrate another three important bilateral agreements: on cooperation in sports, on bilateral air services, and a memorandum of understanding on cooperation between our diplomatic academies.
I note with satisfaction that Saudi Arabia continues to be our main trade partner in the Middle East, with a trade flow that surpassed 5.8 billion dollars in 2014.There is a high degree of complementarity between our economies. However, we need to study ways to overcome the excessive emphasis on raw materials in our bilateral trade agenda. I hope the participants in this meeting can offer alternatives to the solution of this problem, and that Your Excellency will take back to the Kingdom the message that Brazil is willing and indeed determined to diversify its bilateral trade agenda with Saudi Arabia and to make available to the Saudi market the significant advances we have achieved in various areas of excellence – for example our aviation industry, recognized worldwide for its high quality and competitiveness.
Regarding the promotion of bilateral investments, I note that in November 2014 the Brazilian Government passed a law which will greatly facilitate the realization of Saudi sovereign investment funds in Brazil, by reducing to zero the income tax rate on profits of such investment. This responds to a long-standing complaint on the part of many Saudi interlocutors. The path is open to an increase in investment in Brazil by Saudi sovereign funds. A huge and continuously expanding economy, with a market of two hundred million people, part of Mercosur and of several trade agreements, open to the world and offering immense opportunities for investment, Brazil is also open to new forms of cooperation and association with Saudi Arabia in the field of investment.
We would also like to work together with the Kingdom in initiatives that directly benefit developing countries. We should explore further the possibilities for trilateral cooperation on agriculture, especially in African countries.
We also have many issues to deal with in the political arena. Brazil is engaged in a sustained process of intensification of ties with the Arab and Islamic worlds. We were the first South American country to nominate a special representative to the Arab League. A significant portion of our population is of Arab descent – more than 10 million Brazilians in total. We have large Muslim population. People of the most diverse ethnic groups and religions live in harmony in Brazil.
Brazilian diplomacy has been emphatic and active in condemning the phenomenon of Islamophobia, an issue addressed by President Dilma Rousseff in her speech at the opening of the United Nations General Assembly. In partnership with the Federation of Muslim Associations in Brazil (Fambras), Itamaraty has run two editions of a course on the Islamic world, with the aim of increasing knowledge about the Islam within the Brazilian Government.
We have been enthusiastic and proactive in pushing forward the South American-Arab Countries initiative (ASPA), which has the potential to complement our reciprocal efforts of rapprochement. But I am convinced that it is a solid network of bilateral relations between the Arab world and South America that will give this bi-regional mechanism the power to boost our mutual development.
With these brief notes aimed at reflecting the density of our relations, their potential, and the great importnace the Brazilian Government attaches to them, I once again thank you for your presence here. The Brazilian Government is confident that this renewed Joint Commission and the work of each of its members will be a milestone in the growing proximity between Brazil and Saudi Arabia, and between South America and the Arab countries.
I wish you all, therefore, an excellent day of work.
Thank you very much.