Qatar and Brazil: Three decades of bilateral ties
For more than thirty years Qatar and Brazil have strengthened formal diplomatic and economic relations.
The Federative Republic of Brazil is the world’s fifth largest country by geographical area and also by population, which stands at more than 192 million people. In 2011, Brazil became the sixth largest economy in the world, with a gross domestic product of more than US$2.4 trillion (QR8.7 trillion).
Diplomatic relations between the Brazilian capital Brasília and Doha were formally established in 1974, three years after Qatar’s independence from the United Kingdom.
In 2005, during an official visit to Qatar, the Brazilian minister of external relations, Celso Amorin conveyed to His Highness, the Emir of Qatar, Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani, the decision of the Brazilian government to establish an embassy in Doha, which opened in April of the same year.
Two years later, the embassy of Qatar in Brasília opened. As of March 31, 2012 there were approximately 776 Brazilians working in Qatar, mostly in the aviation field and oil industry as engineers, and in the sports sector as either coaches or football players. “Besides the Brazilian community in Qatar, it is estimated that around 200 Brazilians live in Kuwait and 230 in Bahrain, Tadeu Valadares, ambassador of Brazil to Qatar says, “There are approximately 2000 Brazilians living in the the United Arab Emirates, which hosts the largest Brazilian community in the Gulf region and the second largest in the Middle East, after Lebanon.”
Valadares says that between 2003 and 2011, trade in goods between Brazil and Qatar grew more than fifteenfold, from US$37 million (QR134 million) to US$575 million (QR2 trillion). In 2011, the total amount of Brazilian exports to Qatar reached US$337 million (QR1.2 trillion). 93 percent of these are concentrated in three products: 41 percent in iron ore, 29 percent in poultry, and 23 percent calcined alumina, a product used in ceramic and refractory applications.
Brazil, apart from being heavily industrialised explains Valadares, also has a sophisticated financial system and a very competitive agro-industry. “We produce almost everything from commodities like coffee or minerals such as iron ore to airplanes, cars, and military equipment,” continues Valadares. “In terms of Qatari markets, we export a range of products to sectors such as aircraft, sugar, automobiles, gemstones and other precious stones, granite, wood and its extracts, tobacco, cellulose, soft drinks such as Guaraná, juice fruits such as Caju and Maracuja, beef, clothing and shoes.”
In 2011, Brazilian imports from Qatar reached US$238 million (QR866 million), including 49 percent in liquefied natural gas (LNG), 19 percent in polyethylene, 14 percent in urea, 11 percent of naphthas, (a hydrocarbon product used primarily in the production of gasoline) and seven percent in sulphur.
Qatar also hosts some of Brazil’s prominent companies in the field of civil construction, such as Odebrecht, Andrade Gutierrez, OAS and Queiroz Galvão. “They will for certain contribute to the modernisation of Qatar in the following years,” forwards Valadares.
In the financial sector, Barwa Bank, the Qatari shari’ah-complaint lender has recently launched a new fund to target the Brazilian market, as real estate is booming in Brazil. “Much of this expansionary cycle in terms of real estate has to do with the internal dynamics of the Brazilian economy, and with the present situation and prospects of the global economy,” explains Valadares. “But it is also indirectly connected to the World Cup 2014 and the Olympic Games in 2016.”
“Moreover, the Brazilian embassy in Doha is highly active, and has participated in the Arab-South American Business Forum 2009 held in Doha in March of that year; with the participation of many Brazilian companies pertaining to various economic sectors,” adds Valadares.
Valadares also adds that the second Arab-South American Summit 2012 (which was recently held in Lima, Peru) has confirmed the importance of the process that began in Brasília in 2005, when the first summit was hosted by the former Brazilian president Lula da Silva. “The goal of this process is not limited to trade. What we Brazilians want foremost is – besides attaining trade objectives – is to strengthen the political and cultural links between both regions. The strategic dimension of this process that engages Arab and South American states and societies is crucial for the developing countries of both regions, as it gives a new impulse to multilateralism.”
In addition, Brazil and Qatar have signed a number of Memoranda of Understandings (MOU) and agreements that establish a general framework allowing deepening bilateral relations. According to Valadares they have had a positive effect on business and other fields of bilateral cooperation such as media, consular relations, technical cooperation, and political dialogue. “What is important and deserves attention is the sum of MOUs and bilateral agreements that have set the indispensable stage for all future developments,” says Valadares.
In January 2010, during an official visit to Brazil by HH the Emir of Qatar the following agreements were signed: Agreement for the Establishment of Joint Ministerial Committee; Agreement on Visa Exemption for Holders of Diplomatic and Special Passports; Agreement on Economic and Commercial; Agreement on Establishing a Mechanism of Bilateral Political Consultations, and an Agreement to Prevent Double Taxation in Airline Profits.
Subsequently, in May 2010 the Qatari-Brazilian Business Seminar was held in Doha during the official visit of the former Brazilian president Lula da Silva. In the course of the former president’s visit several bilateral agreements and MOUs were signed by the Brazilian authorities and Qatari counterparts, including: Agreement for Cultural Cooperation, Agreement for Cooperation in Sports, Agreement for Cooperation between the Brazilian-Arab Chamber of Commerce and the Qatar Business Association; Agreement for Cooperation between the Brazilian-Arab Chamber of Commerce and the Qatar Chamber of Commerce and Industry; MOU between the Brazilian and Qatari Olympic Committees, and MOU for Cooperation in Tourism.
“Also the former Brazilian minister of development, industry and foreign trade visited Doha in December 2010, accompanied by a delegation of 100 businessmen,” adds Valadares. According to the embassy’s records from the year 2005 to 2011, the average number of Qataris applying for a Brazilian visa is about 190 a year.
The embassy of Brazil in Doha has also been actively promoting Brazilian culture. In 2011, Brazil participated in the first Cultural Latin American Festival together with Katara and other Latin American countries with embassies in Doha. “This year the Latin American Group in Doha is planning a huge exhibition of photos taken in 11 different Latin American countries. The title of the exhibition is enticing, Nature and Biodiversity in Latin America,” concludes Valadares.