Celebrating 200 years of independence

Brazil, with a glorious history and the 10th largest economy in the world today, is celebrating 200 years of its independence on Sep 7. In early 1822, Dom Pedro, the Prince of Brazil, was under heavy pressure from Portugal to abandon his post as regent and return to Lisbon so that Brazil would be a colony again.

Choosing to aid his people instead of obeying the court, Dom Pedro boldly announced "I shall stay", in what is known as "Dia do Fico". This set the ground for the process of severing ties with Portugal that would lead to Brazilian independence that very year, on Sep 7.

The celebration this year of Brazil's bicentenary of independence coincides with another event of special significance. It marks 55 years of the establishment of diplomatic ties between Brazil and Singapore, a relationship that has brought political and commercial benefits to the 2 countries.

"Brazil was the first Latin American country to establish diplomatic relations with Singapore, back in 1967, and the first to open an embassy here, in 1979,'' Brazil's Ambassador to Singapore Eugenia Barthelmess tells The Business Times (BT) in an interview on the occasion of her country's national day.

"In 2012, Singapore officially opened its own resident embassy in Brasilia, its only diplomatic representation in Latin America so far. Along these 55 years, much has been achieved. Economic, commercial, cultural and political relations between our 2 countries have grown steadily, in a clear sign of the strong ties that unite our societies and of the promising perspectives ahead,'' she adds.

The envoy highlights some of the most recent achievements generated by the fruitful coordination between Brazil and Singapore, which illustrate the excellent state of bilateral relations in various fields. The recent entry into force of a bilateral agreement for the avoidance of double taxation will greatly benefit companies in both Singapore and Brazil by providing a legal framework to reduce the tax burden on business and economic stakeholders.

Ambassador Barthelmess says that particularly good has been the conclusion in July of negotiations for a free trade agreement (FTA) between Singapore and Mercosur, the South American trade bloc comprised of Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay and Uruguay. The FTA brings new and important trade and business opportunities for Singapore, and for Brazil and its Mercosur partners.

''Brazil is thankful for the strong support of the government of Singapore to its candidature to become a Sectoral Dialogue Partner of Asean, which was approved by the Asean foreign ministers in early August, and will further enhance the quality of cooperation between Brazil and Singapore and its Asean partners,'' she adds.

These recent developments point to the potential of mutually beneficial future initiatives. With a projected gross domestic product (GDP) in 2022 of US$1.8 trillion, Brazil is the 10th largest economy in the world and the largest economy in Latin America. It has also the 7th largest world population - of around 215 million people - and the 5th most extensive territory, covering an area of 8.5 million sq km.

''As a trustworthy provider of high-quality agriculture goods to the world with, in its turn, a large internal consumer market, Brazil looks forward to continuously strengthening its political and economic ties with vibrant Singapore, an important world trader and investor, and a leading country in its own region,'' Ambassador Barthelmess tells BT.

With the gradual easing of travel restrictions this year, a high-level Brazilian Air Force delegation came here for the airshow in February. This was followed by the visits of the Brazilian business promotion agency ApexBrasil and of the representatives of the Brazilian postal service. Particularly important was the presence in Singapore of a large team of Brazilian delegates for a round of negotiations towards the Mercosur-Singapore FTA, which was instrumental to the conclusion of the agreement in July.

''The participation of the Minister of Communications of Brazil in Asia Tech x Singapore, at the invitation of Minister (for Communications and Information) Josephine Teo, was equally important for the strengthening of bilateral ties in this field. On Aug 29, the Brazilian Minister of Education met Singaporean authorities on his way to the G20 Education Ministers Meeting in Bali,'' Ambassador Barthelmess tells BT.

More bilateral visits are expected in the coming months. In the first week of September, 20 Brazilian companies are taking part in the Food and Hotel Asia trade show here, where they are showcasing high-quality food and beverage products to the local audience of buyers and consumers.

''We are also preparing a key business mission later this month that will bring both large and medium-sized Brazilian companies to Singapore and the region, thus deepening a business and trade relationship that is already flourishing. A mission of representatives of the Brazilian Ministries of the Economy, and Science and Technology, is being planned for late November,'' the Brazilian envoy adds.

There is a diverse array of Brazilian economic interests operating in Singapore, and some of the most important Brazilian companies are active here. From airplane makers to fashion, food products, oil, cotton, mining, petrochemical and pioneering graphene research, Brazil's business presence in Singapore is significant and diversified.

At the same time, Singapore is today the 4th largest Asian investor in Brazil. ''Added to the presence of more than 60 Singaporean companies in our country, the fact that GIC, Temasek, the Economic Development Board and Enterprise Singapore all have offices in Sao Paulo is an evidence of the importance, for Singapore, of investment opportunities in Brazil,'' Ambassador Barthelmess tells BT.

In recent years, bilateral trade between Brazil and Singapore has had good growth. In 2021, Singapore was the second destination for Brazilian goods export in Asia and the sixth main global destination for Brazilian exports, ahead of several other long-standing Brazilian trade partners. As recently as 2018, Singapore ranked as the 16th world destination for Brazilian exports.

''This dynamic upward trend has been fuelled by a vigorous increase in each country's interest in the other's internal market and the consolidation of Brazil as a large exporter of oil to Singapore and as the main provider of poultry, pork and beef to the Singaporean market. When the Covid pandemic sent shockwaves across the world economy, Brazil stepped up its exports of food products to Singapore. The increase in Brazilian exports of meat to Singapore peaked during the first year of the pandemic. It was a crucial moment for local food security and Brazil was well positioned to provide Singapore with a stable, reliable and high-quality source of products,'' Ambassador Barthelmess tells BT.

The main items Brazil exports to Singapore are fuel, crude oil, and meat - poultry, pork and beef. The list of Brazilian exports is quite comprehensive and also includes minerals, coffee, sugar and fruits. Singapore, on the other hand, exports to Brazil a wide range of electronic products, chemicals, and pharmaceuticals. It is also a supplier to the Brazilian marine and offshore sector and has developed a solid relationship with Brazilian oil companies.

''We expect bilateral trade to continue expanding into the future. Brazil will continue to provide Singapore with a secure supply of high-quality agribusiness goods. The embassy is right now working to increase the exports of Brazilian fruits to the Singaporean market. Growing reciprocal awareness by the private sector in the 2 countries of the importance of bilateral trade potential is leading to the multiplication of new business opportunities between Brazil and Singapore,'' says Ambassador Barthelmess.

''Brazil and Singapore share perceptions about principles ­- regional integration, economic openness, peace and stability for our societies to continue to prosper - that are fundamental to the world order. As important trading nations and close partners in the international scene, Brazil and Singapore share a vision about the importance of investing in food security, pandemic prevention, and the development of clean energy sources,'' she adds.

''Looking ahead, I see room for an ever greater business and political approximation between Brazil and Singapore, which will revert to the common benefit of our societies. I am grateful for the opportunity to play a small part in this collective effort.''

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