By Marsílea Gombata
SÃO PAULO, Mar 17 2017 (IPS)
IPS is reproducing an interview of Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation of the United Arab Emirates with Valor Economico.
The UAE has witnessed a rapid expansion of its diplomatic relations with countries in Latin America, the South Pacific, Sub-Saharan Africa and East Asia as well as a consolidation and strengthening of its relations with Western countries during the tenure of Sheikh, who also launched a number of international forums, including the Sir Bani Yas Forum the Global Forum on Relationships between the Arab World, Latin America and the Caribbean, and the Arab League countries dialogue with Pacific Island States. In this interview, among several issues, he talks about building strong partnerships to address global challenges and the UAE’s commitment to invest in clean and renewable energy both at home and abroad.
Valor Econômico: This is your fourth time you are in Brazil as the Foreign Minister of the United Arab Emirates. What is the purpose of the visit to Brazil this month?
Abdullah bin Zayed al Nahyan: In this increasingly globalized world, strong partnerships are vital for national prosperity, innovation, and in order to address global challenges. The UAE highly values its relationship with Brazil, and we seek to further build upon and expand the existing ties between our two friendly countries. During my visit, I am meeting/have met your President, the Foreign Minister, the Minister of Industry, the Minister of Trade and Services, the Minister of Defense and the Governor of Sao Paulo, demonstrating the UAE’s commitment to strengthening ties with Brazil across the board.
VE: Today the United Arab Emirates is our second largest trading partner in Middle East after Saudi Arabia. In 15 years, bilateral trade went from US $ 300 million in 2000 to US $ 3 billion in 2015. What are the prospects for expanding these exchanges?
AAN: I am confident that the UAE and Brazil will be able to further build upon the current level of exchanges. Our two countries have a lot to offer one another, and we are in regular discussions about further expanding our trade and cooperation more generally. We share common interests and common aims, as well as friendly relations, which provide a solid foundation to further expand and broaden our bilateral cooperation.
VE: The trade balance between countries now has a Brazilian surplus of around US $ 2 billion. Does this figure bother the United Arab Emirates? Does the government think of any strategy / measure to reverse this figure?
AAN: The UAE welcomes the rapid growth in bilateral trade between the UAE and Brazil, demonstrating the excellent state of relations between our two countries. The UAE’s economy has been growing strongly over recent years and so it is not surprising that it has attracted an ever growing share of Brazilian imports. To ensure its economic dynamism in the future, the UAE has adopted ambitious plans to further diversify its economy, laid out in the UAE Vision 2021 and the Abu Dhabi Economic Vision 2030. As the UAE’s economy continues to diversify and expand in the new sectors, we expect that there will be a gradual and organic rebalancing of trade balance that will benefit both of our countries.
VE: In 2012, you were in Brazil with former Foreign Minister Antonio Patriota and expressed the interest of the United Arab Emirates to invest in the country’s oil and energy sector. Is this still on the bilateral agenda? Is there any prospect of investing in Petrobras or even in operations practically abandoned by the company, such as pre-salt exploration?
In this increasingly globalized world, strong partnerships are vital for national prosperity, innovation, and in order to address global challenges
The UAE is always reviewing investments in the oil and energy sector, and exploring potential new opportunities and partnerships. Since my visit in 2012, the underlying conditions of the oil market have changed considerably, which naturally meant that some UAE companies have been reviewing their investment decisions. Despite this, the UAE remains optimistic about the prospects of the sector as a whole and continues to seek out potential long-term partners and investment opportunities. In parallel, the UAE is also committed to making substantial investments in clean and renewable energy both domestically and overseas. Our companies continue to be interested in other investment opportunities within the energy sector, and we are open to further discussions about how Brazil can create conditions that will facilitate such investments in the future.
VE: If so, what is the size of the investment you are planning? Who will guide it: government of the United Arab Emirates or companies? Which ones?
AAN: The UAE government and UAE companies will discuss the size of any future investments and who will be leading them as they arise.
VE: Are there prospects for investment in the Brazilian military industry/ market? What are the values and products?
AAN: As with oil and energy, the UAE government and UAE companies regularly review their current and future investments in the defense sector. The UAE is pleased to be in the process of increasing its defense cooperation with Brazil, and we are engaged in ongoing discussions about how we can further collaborate in this area. We were also very happy to welcome 16 Brazilian companies to the International Defence Exhibition and Conference (Idex) held in Abu Dhabi in February of this year, which demonstrates Brazil’s growing presence in this sector and helped showcase Brazil’s advanced military industry to a wide regional audience. On the margins of Idex, Caracal, a UAE-based manufacturer of small arms, announced its intentions to set up a plant in the state of Goiás in Brazil. This will be an important step to further strengthen cooperation between the defense industries of our two countries.
VE: The ADIA fund invested alongside CIC (China) and GIC (Singapore) funds in the investor consortium that capitalized BTG Pactual with US $ 1.8 billion. Is there any prospect of investing in other businesses in the Brazilian financial sector?
AAN: The UAE is pleased that ADIA’s investment partnership with BTG Pactual has assisted in the growth of the banking and finance sector, setting the stage for other potential investments in the future. Brazil’s establishment of Islamic Banking makes investment arrangements all the more attractive, and the UAE welcomes new opportunities to cooperate in the financial sector. Sao Paulo and Dubai are both important financial hubs for our respective regions, and I am confident that we will be able to continue to create new, mutually beneficial opportunities in the financial and banking sectors.
VE: Some Sovereign Wealth Funds have shown an interest in assets linked to the infrastructure sector here, an area where the country currently has few resources. After the entry of the Mubadala, a company of the government of Abu Dhabi, in the Porte Sudeste (ex-MMX, of Eike Batista), what are the next businesses?
AAN: The UAE recognizes that there are a number of investment opportunities in the infrastructure sector in Brazil, and that Brazil’s growing economy is likely to create an even more positive investment climate. The UAE and Mubadala is always on the look-out for investment opportunities in geographic areas and sectors that have a long-term potential, and discussions over prospective investments are held with the relevant entities.
VE: The United Arab Emirates plans to send an unmanned mission to Mars in 2021 and build a city on the planet within a century. What is the size of the investments in this spatial sector today? Does it occur to diversify the economy of the country when the oil – main asset – will be over? What are the other fronts to reach that?
AAN: So far, the UAE has invested 20 billion AED into the space sector, which will support the UAE’s goals of economic diversification and help us develop advanced capabilities in the engineering and sciences. During the World Government Summit in Dubai this year, the UAE announced its ambitious 100-year national plan, which aims to establish a city on the planet Mars. To support this initiative, the UAE will develop educations programs and university studies in advanced space sciences. An Emirati scientific team will lead the process, which will eventually expand to include international scientists and researchers from around the globe.
The UAE is also continuing to build upon its petrochemical, plastics and aluminum industries, in addition to is financial services, cultural, air transport and ports sectors. This is ensuring that we are well on the way to achieving the target of generating 64 per cent of GDP from non-oil industries outlined in Abu Dhabi Economic Vision 2030.
VE: Brazil has one of the most suitable rocket launching bases in Alcantara, in the State of Maranhão, near Ecuador line. Is there any joint project or cooperation linking the Emirates’ space expansion and the Brazilian base that is currently inactive?
Currently, the UAE’s space agency is not collaborating with Brazil over the use of launch sites in the country.
VE: To defend controversial policies, such as travel ban to immigrants from six countries, US President Donald Trump talks about protecting the US from potential terrorists. You are a supporter of joint action by the international community against terrorism. But is it all against terrorism? How far can we go?
AAN: The UAE is heavily involved in efforts to counter terrorism and extremism, given the significant threats they pose to the security and stability of the UAE, the region and the world. UAE forces have been leading the fight against Al Qaeda and other extremists in southern Yemen, where they have liberated the important port city of Mukalla last year. Amongst others, UAE forces have also participated in international anti-terror operations in Afghanistan and against Daesh in Syria and Iraq. But the UAE knows that force alone cannot win the battle against terror. This is why, we have invested heavily in tackling the root causes of terrorism, by for example hosting the Hedayah Center of Excellence for Countering Extremism and launching the Sawab Center, together with the USA to counter online radicalization and recruitment. Furthermore, the UAE has taken a leading role in the rebuilding and reconstruction of areas liberated from Daesh and other extremists.
The USA has been an important partner in the fight against terrorism worldwide and we welcome the determination of the Trump administration to tackling the challenge of extremism. With regards to the recent discussion on immigration, we acknowledge that every nation has a right to control access to its territory, and while we believe in the universal benefits of free travel and exchanges, we respect the decision of the Trump administration to take measures to protect its borders for national security reasons. We also welcome the US Government’s clarification that the ban is “not a Muslim ban”, and encourage the media to report responsibly on the issue in order to avoid fueling stereotypes that only serve the interests of extremists.