Hannun touts benefits of Arab-Brazilian partnership

04 de outubro de 2017

São Paulo – Arab Brazilian Chamber of Commerce president Rubens Hannun discussed the mutual advantages of partnerships between Brazil and Arab countries. He delivered the opening speech for an event held at the Chamber’s headquarters in São Paulo that featured a lecture by Brazilian Development Bank (BNDES) president Paulo Rabello de Castro.

Hannun said Brazil-Arab ties tend toward a virtuous circle. “This is about having resources and production come together. We will work to conquer Arab resources and channel them to productive activity in Brazil, generating goods and services that can be supplied to the Arab market,” he asserted.

Hannun pointed out that Arab countries must work towards their food security, since they import most of their food. “Here we have the resources and the production, so a virtuous circle is put in place where things are given back and the wheel keeps turning. We’ll give to the Arabs in return for what they’re investing in Brazil, in terms of catering to their needs,” he complemented.

The president of the BNDES is looking to get Arab capital to invest in a number of industries alongside the bank, a subject which Hannun also touched on. He said that three out of the world’s five biggest sovereign funds and five out of the ten biggest are Arab. “Forty percent of the total worth of sovereign funds around the world is held by Arabs,” Hannun told Rabello de Castro and those in attendance.

At the event’s opening, the Arab Chamber announced that it has partnered with BNDES for tandem actions in Arab countries. The organizations are planning to send a delegation of technicians to Arab countries in November before having an official mission in December to get in touch with people in sovereign funds.

Brazil’s hosting of the upcoming meeting of the Union of Arab Chambers in March 2018 should also be an occasion for building ties with Arab countries. The decision to hold the event in Brazil came from talks during Hannun’s and Arab Brazilian Chamber special projects advisor Tamer Mansour’s trip to Jordan last week, where they attended the Union’s annual meeting and the Arab-African Economic Forum, in addition to meeting with a number of authorities.

Besides the Union meeting, an Economic Forum for Brazil-Arab Countries will be held. “This is a meeting that doesn’t usually happen in non-Arab countries, and we are hosting this meeting,” said Hannun, remarking that the Union is the commercial arm of the League of Arab States. He also said the Union entrusted the Arab Brazilian Chamber with the task of working on all Latin American countries’ ties with Arab countries. The BNDES’ president showed enthusiasm regarding the meeting.

Hannun also mentioned that exports from Brazil to Arab countries climbed 15% year-to-date through August to USD 8.53 billion, while imports climbed 18% to a total of USD 4.4 billion. “But this is still not enough. These numbers could be even bigger, because the Arab market is an out-and-out buying market,” said Hannun.

In an interview with ANBA, the Arab Chamber’s president pointed out that it’s viable for the BNDES to get Arabs to embark upon joint investment projects. “This would mean less risk for them, since the BNDES handles all of the selection work,” he said. According to him, The Arab Chamber is working to become the neutral arm of Arab sovereign funds in Brazil. “To look at the investments they have made and to kind of curate them, to have a closer look at them,” he said.

Regarding Castro’s lecture, which he attended, Arab Chamber International Relations vice president Osmar Chohfi highlighted the overview the speaker gave of the BNDES’ role in economic and social development in Brazil. He also mentioned Castro’s thoughts on how to boost economic and trade relations between Brazil and the Arab countries.

Speaking to ANBA, Chohfi noted that the needs and potentialities of Arab countries and Brazil are complementary. “The Arab world is a major buyer of food products, and Brazil is a major supplier of food products,” he said, also mentioning that financing is needed for infrastructure projects in Brazil, and that Arab countries have the financial capability via their sovereign funds.

Arab Brazilian Chamber advisor Mustafá Abdouni, who also attended the BNDES president’s lecture, stressed the fact that Castro said Brazil’s three biggest problems are interest rates, taxes, and Social Security. “This does not fit in with globalization,” said Abdouni, adding that the lecture was a most valuable lesson and praising the Arab Chamber for hosting it.

Besides Abdouni and Chohfi, the lecture was also attended by Arab Chamber C-level executives including Investment director Daniel Hannun, CEO Michel Alaby, Cultural director Sílvia Antibas, board members Mohamad Orra Mourad, William Atui and Sami Roumieh, and Treasury director Nahid Chicani.

*Translated by Gabriel Pomerancblum