How would you describe the bilateral relationship between Qatar and Brazil? What is Brazil’s vision for this relationship going forward?
BALBINO: Brazil and Qatar share a very vibrant relationship. Since the two counties established diplomatic relations back in 1974, we’ve been able to strengthen tourism, commercial, cultural, and political ties a lot. I would say both countries share a very sharp view of the future; both countries are committed to a different international order. Both our countries are committed to a more democratic international community, one in which the so-called peripheral countries can also thrive.
In a world that is fast evolving into globalization, in the sense of a more homogeneous culture, I think there is a difference that both Qatar and Brazil represent. That difference is that we are both very conscious and very proud of our culture heritage. For instance, in a context where fast communication and virtual relationships are emphasized, I think both our countries have a lot to contribute in terms of community, family, and local values. This is something that is very important.
Both Brazil and Qatar have very diverse and plural societies, including people from different backgrounds in terms of religions and in terms of geographical origin. So that does make both our countries more diverse and more tolerant towards different cultural heritages as well.
Where do current trade levels between Qatar and Brazil stand? Where to you see these figures heading in the future?
BALBINO: In terms of commerce in 2012, Qatar and Brazil have traded more than $1bn worth of products. That's an even, a very well balanced, trade between the two countries and there is still room for growth. Brazil is home to one of the biggest and one of the fastest growing aerospace industries in the world, and of course Qatar is a ready market for that. Additionally, in terms of the very ambitious food security program that Qatar is developing, Brazil is ready to contribute with agriculture machinery and other implements.
What are the main challenges currently facing Brazilian companies in Qatar and vice-versa? How are the challenges being overcome?
BALBINO: As always, there are cultural aspects that influence international trade. For instance, the companies that are willing to settle in Qatar should be prepared to deal with the way Arabs are used to doing business. That usually means that they have to have a long-term perspective in mind, which is something that big companies can do but medium sized companies cannot face as easily, especially in the case of a country like ours, which is quite distant geographically. So that is a challenge.
In terms of commerce in 2012, Qatar and Brazil have traded more than $1bn worth of products. That's an even, a very well balanced, trade between the two countries and there is still room for growth.
On the other hand, Qatari companies wanting to invest and to settle in Brazil will have to have a more acute vision for a more complex political and juridical setting, as is the case in a federative country such as ours. There are different layers of responsibilities, which the federal, state level, and municipal level governments share, and they can be quite tricky for a foreigner at first. That being said, Brazil has recently passed legislation aimed at facilitating foreign investment in the area of ports, and this is just one example of how opportunities for investment are opening up all the time, such as the ones that Qatar investment authorities are already using.
How important is increasing ties with Qatar for Brazil?
BALBINO: It is very important for us, for Brazil, to strengthen the ties between the two countries. There are many similarities between us that are little known. For instance, Brazil is home to about 15 million Arabs and Arab descendants, and that makes the Arab culture look, taste, and sound very familiar to all of us Brazilians, and that is something that usually surprises people here in Qatar. On the other hand, Brazil is known in Qatar mainly because of football and because of the famous football players and coaches that work here. That is something that we would like to broaden, the knowledge between the two countries.
What do you hope to achieve through the 2014 Qatar Brazil Year of Culture partnership?
BALBINO: First of all, Brazil is honoured to have been chosen as a partner of Qatar in the series of cultural years that Qatar has been developing recently. That being said, I think the moment is just right. 2014 is going to be a thrilling year in Brazil. We're having the World Cup for the second time in 64 years and of course, football is the passion of most Brazilians and Qataris alike. We'll be very happy to have Qatar, who will host the 2022 World Cup, with us in this moment of joy and of excitement. It will be a time to deepen the knowledge between our two cultures. We hope that Qataris will learn a little bit more about our culture, about our country, and we also hope that Brazilians will learn more about this beautiful country called Qatar.