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Brazilian president Bolsonaro to meet Saudi king, crown prince

By Rasheed Abou-Alsamh

Brazil’s President Jair Bolsonaro (L) shakes hands with Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman as they attend a meeting on the digital economy at the G20 Summit in Osaka on June 28, 2019. (Photo AFP)

BRASILIA – Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro and a delegation of more than 100 ministers and businessmen arrive in Riyadh on Oct. 28 for an official visit. Bolsonaro is scheduled to meet with the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Salman, and with Crown Prince Muhammad bin Salman, during his two-day visit.

Saudi Arabia is Brazil’s largest trading partner in the Middle East. From January to August of this year, Brazil exported US$1.34 billion in mainly agricultural goods to the Kingdom, including frozen and fresh chicken meat, soya beans, sugar cane, and corn, according to Brazilian government figures. During that same period, the kingdom exported US$1.55 billion worth of goods to Brazil, mainly crude oil, fertilizers, and petrochemicals. The kingdom provides Brazil with 33 percent of its imported oil.

“Brazil wants to intensify its relations with Gulf countries. President Bolsonaro’s visit to Saudi Arabia will serve as a showcase for investments in Brazil,” said Kenneth Nobrega, secretary for bilateral negotiations in the Middle East at the Brazilian Foreign Ministry.

Bolsonaro is bringing his ministers of foreign affairs, economy, defense, environment, energy, and science and technology with him. They will all be explaining the macro and micro economic changes that the president is implementing in Brazil, opening the Brazilian economy to more foreign investments and cutting taxes and other bureaucratic hurdles to investments.

While in Riyadh, Bolsonaro will help open the Future Investment Initiative forum, and will attend a meeting with Saudi businessmen at the Council of Saudi Chambers of Commerce headquarters in the capital.

“Brazil wants to intensify its relations with Gulf countries. President Bolsonaro’s visit to Saudi Arabia will serve as a showcase for investments in Brazil,” said Kenneth Nobrega, secretary for bilateral negotiations in the Middle East at the Brazilian Foreign Ministry.

“Brazil is looking for investments in its privatization program, renewable energy, the medical sector and in infrastructure projects,” said Nobrega.

Before arriving in Riyadh, Bolsonaro will have visited the United Arab Emirates and Qatar. Dubai serves as an important hub for Brazilian goods to be reexported to the Middle East and Asia.

The Brazilian president’s visit to three Arab Gulf states is part of an effort to balance Brazil’s foreign relations after his visit to Israel last March. Bolsonaro, a supporter of the Jewish state, had announced that Brazil would follow the lead of the United States and also move its embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. But the outcry against this in Brazil made him backtrack and say that Brazil would open a commercial office in disputed Jerusalem.

“Brazil is going to open a commercial office in Jerusalem by the end of November,” confirmed Nobrega. “And we are aware that there are an estimated 10 million Brazilians of Arab descent. Therefore, the Arab world is very important for us.”

On whether Brazilians would be able to avail of the new tourism visas that the kingdom recently launched, Nobrega said that the two countries were still discussing the issue of visas.

“Several memorandums of understanding are expected to be signed during President Bolsonaro’s visit to Saudi Arabia, including one on visas, the pacific use of nuclear energy, and several in the defense, sporting and science areas,” explained the Brazilian diplomat.