Brazilian Foreign Minister Aloysio Nunes Ferreira paid an official visit to Armenia in November. Armenian News-NEWS.am interviewed Brazil’s Ambassador to Armenia, H.E. Agemar de Mendonça Sanctos to learn about the results of this important visit as well as Brazil’s political and economic priorities in Armenia.
Brazilian Foreign Minister Aloysio Nunes Ferreira visited Armenia in November. It was a key event for the development of bilateral relations. How do you assess the results of this visit?
It was very important for us, mainly because it was the first ever visit of any Brazilian minister to Armenia and it was of our Foreign Minister, which gives it a special political significance. The visit was very successful. The Minister has very close personal connections with the Brazilian Armenian Diaspora. During his visit we signed an agreement on economic cooperation. To implement this agreement we are already working on the organization in 2018 of a first Brazilian trade mission to Armenia. During President Sargsyan’s visit to Brazil we signed six agreements. The agreements are still to be ratified by the Brazilian Senate and we working with our friends in the Brazilian Senate to put them in force as soon as possible. I arrived in Armenia only six weeks ago and already have seen that many new ideas can be put in place to promote Brazilian-Armenian ties. The objective is to increase the density of our relationship. The problem is that Brazilians do not know much about Armenia. Last year for example we had a documentary about Armenia on Brazilian TV (Globo TV) and the immediate result was a huge increase in the number of Brazilians coming to visit Armenia. Brazilians do not need visas to come here, which makes this country very attractive to us as a tourist destination. Apart from tourism, which has great potential, our goal is to promote bilateral business and bring Armenian and Brazilian entrepreneurs together.
Which are Brazil's political priorities in the South Caucasus and in Armenia in particular?
Since its independence in 1822, and particularly in the last century, Brazil has followed what we could call a consistent and traditional foreign policy of promoting peace and international cooperation. The last great conflict in which Brazil was involved ended in 1870 and since then we have been a country of peace and at peace with our neighbors. Brazil has borders with ten countries. We therefore know a lot about peace and we do not know much about war. This is our policy for the South Caucasus. Brazil is lately being demanded to play a larger role in world affairs as we already are the seventh or eighth economy in the world. But we have scant military power. Our weapons are in the arsenals of “soft power”.
President Serzh Sargsyan visited Brazil last year and participated in the groundbreaking ceremony of the Embassy of Armenia in Brazil. How will the opening of an embassy affect the development of bilateral relations?
I think the opening of the embassy of Armenia in Brasilia will have a very positive impact in our relations. This will hopefully inspire my government to also start building our new embassy in Yerevan. Brazil already owns a very nice plot in downtown Yerevan and we have a project signed by a very famous Brazilian architectural office. We are working hard to achieve this project.
Which are perspective areas in terms of development of economic ties? According to the information provided on the website of the Armenian Foreign Ministry, the volume of bilateral trade has decreased. What is the reason behind this?
One of my main projects here is to organize a first Brazilian trade mission to Armenia. Only by having a trade mission on the ground, we will be able to analyze the reality of Brazilian- Armenian trade. In the case of countries like Armenia, a sizable part of trade with Brazil is done through third countries. Goods that we export to third countries for example, may be later re-exported to Armenia. My goal is to put businessmen and women of Brazil and Armenia together so that we can have clear idea of what is going on in our bilateral trade and what new areas can be developed. As to the cooperation with the Eurasian Union, Brazil is conducting negotiations as part of MERCOSUR, the sub-regional trading bloc comprising Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay and Uruguay.
Armenia is registering an increase in the flow of tourists. Although our countries are located far from each other, we would like to ask whether Brazil is going to develop tourism between our two countries? Do you have any data about Brazilians visiting Armenia?
I have no idea. We cannot control that number, because there are no visas requirements between our two countries. Sometimes we meet Brazilians on the streets of Yerevan. Brazilian Portuguese is very specific and you immediately know that Brazilians are here when you hear them talking on the streets. It seems that we are far from each other, but not really. For example, many Brazilians are now traveling to Asia through Dubai or Abu-Dhabi and this takes a lot more time than coming to the Causasus region. Traveling to Armenia through Europe is much shorter. Armenia is a beautiful country with very good food and fine wine. The people are incredibly friendly. I already love this country. In my diplomatic life I have worked in 18 countries. And believe me, I know when a country is good. For that reason, my plan is to stretch my mission here for as long as possible. To integrate better in Armenian culture, as of January next me and my wife Simone will start working hard on our Armenian language course.