By Leila Monteiro Lins

Ambassador Mario Vilalva took office as the Brazilian Ambassador in Portugal for the second time in 2010. In this interview with Discover Brazil, he talks about the strength of the historical and cultural relationship between the two countries. He also talks about the new economic opportunities and highlights the traditional and long-standing cultural exchange between the two nations. Furthermore, Vilalva foresees an increase in trade and mutual investments between Portugal and Canada.

Discover Brazil – What are the greatest similarities and mutual goals between Brazil and Portugal? What makes both nations feel so united?

Mario Vilalva – Brazil and Portugal have an old and profound historical and cultural relationship. Beyond our relation of consanguinity, there were moments that both countries were very united under the same government — the origin of the old saying, “brother-countries”. Nowadays, though on different scales, one can say that both countries have in common the search for new heights of social and economic development. An important part of this mutual friendship is the ability to get to know each other deeply and understand our most modern and dynamic facets, leaving behind stereotypes and transforming the extraordinary human, political and cultural power that we have been able to accumulate through our history.

DB – President Dilma Roussef stated in 2010, during her visit to Portugal, that the relationship between Brazil and Portugal was going through some changes. How do you think it has changed?

Mario Vilalva – The relationship between Brazil and Portugal is going through a moment of remarkable fluidity resulting from the settlement of past immigration problems, the increasing flux of high-level visits, mutual support at multilateral forums and the opening of innovative frontsof cooperation such as in the fields of science and technology. On the cultural side, where our exchange has been significantly more traditional, an important milestone was the occurrence of the “Year of Brazil in Portugal” and the “Year of Portugal” in Brazil in 2012 and 2013 respectively.

DB – What investments were made by the Brazilian government in 2013 in Portugal and what is the schedule for 2014/2015? Also, how much did the Portuguese government invest in Brazil in the same period?

Mario Vilalva – The history of Portuguese investment in Brazil shows a significant increase back in the 90s, while international Brazilian investment became relevant only in the last decade. Thus, the portfolio of Portuguese investments in Brazil is estimated at $34 billion, while in the reverse direction, the numbers amount to $4 billion. Regarding the period from January to April 2014, the flow of investments from Portugal to Brazil is estimated at $144 million, and from Brazil to Portugal, $34 million. The prominent sectors are: construction, aerospace industry, telecommunications, hospitality, renewable energy and oil.

DB – Mr. Vilalva, would you be able to analyse the results of the study that dates back to 2012/2013 on new market opportunities?

Mario Vilalva – This is a very comprehensive study, released in January 2013 by the Embassy of Brazil, with the aim of highlighting exports of Brazilian products with greater opportunities in the Portuguese market. The survey delineated a list of 101 products with the greatest potential, which is the most relevant: plastics, coffee, iron and steel, meat, leather, electrical machinery and equipment and audiovisual materials. If developed, these products would amount to an annual increase in Brazilian exports to Portugal of U.S. $102 million. The study also examined the barriers faced by these products in the EU and found that 85% of them are subject to ad valoremtariffs, and 20% have rates higher than 8%. Furthermore, 30% of these goods face non-tariff barriers, mostly of a sanitary and phytosanitary nature. In this sense, therefore, the EU-Mercosur agreement, currently being negotiated, could represent a major breakthrough in trade between the two blocs, and have a significant impact on between Brazil and Portugal.

DB – Based on your experience as a former head of the Foreign Ministry of the Commercial Promotion department, please comment on the international trade of Brazil and, also on Portuguese interest in Canada.

Mario Vilalva – Brazil is one of the largest economies in the world, with a GDP of USD 2.3 trillion, a territory of 8.5 million km2 and a population of 200 million inhabitants. According to UNCTAD, it was the fifth largest investment destination in the world in 2013. It displays sustainable economic growth and sound institutions, and a booming domestic market, mainly as a result of a rising middle class that includes a significant number of its citizens. With a trade of U.S. $ 481.8 billion in 2013 (exports of $ 242.2 billion and imports of $ 239.6 billion), Brazil is now a major economic partner and relevant to any country on the global stage.

Regarding Portuguese interest in Canada, I can say that Portugal has invested solidly in boosting its economy and its exporting sector to circumvent the current crisis. Great efforts have been made to increase the competitiveness of their products, explore new markets and attract new investments, including privatization. Moreover, attempts are being made toward a broad agreement facilitating trade between the EU and NAFTA, which should create great opportunities for an increased flow of trade and investment between Canada and Portugal.

Leila Monteiro Lins

Leila has more than 30 years of experience in journalism and marketing, including media relations, event planning and the development of communication strategies. In April 2010, LML launched Discover magazine in Canada.

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