Bruna Garcia Fonseca
São Paulo – Piauí governor Wellington Dias is planning to enhance the state’s relations with Arab countries. He paid his first-ever visit to the Arab Brazilian Chamber of Commerce headquarters in São Paulo this Thursday (18). Alongside Partnerships and Concessions superintendent Viviane Bezerra, governor Dias (pictured, on the left) presented projects, investment and public-private partnership opportunities in education, clean energy, infrastructure etc. The governor was welcomed to the Arab Chamber by president Rubens Hannun (R) and CEO Tamer Mansour.
“There’s a world of opportunity in Piauí, and we are interested in this connection with Arab countries,” said Dias. As potential partnership and investment targets, Dias and Bezerra mentioned roads, sanitation, internet connections, airports, railways, light rails, convention centers, and the Port of Luís Correia. “We wish to enhance the direct connection that the Arabs have with Piauí and Northeast Brazil,” the governor said.
Clean energy, including solar and wind power, is another possibility for Piauí-Arab investment and partnerships. A case in point is a project to build, maintain and manage eight mini-photovoltaic power stations via public-private partnerships. Arabs, especially in the Gulf, are investing heavily in renewable energies, and Dubai is planning to build the world’s largest photovoltaic station by 2030.
Piauí is a member of Consórcio Nordeste (the Northeast Consortium), created last March and comprising the region’s nine states (Maranhão, Piauí, Ceará, Rio Grande do Norte, Bahia, Sergipe, Alagoas, Pernambuco and Paraíba). The entity is a joint administration tool designed to increase state-to-state cooperation, improve allocation of public resources, boost exports, facilitate student and worker exchange, and create a fund to provide financing and resources.
Dias said most Arab goods that are sold in Piauí come from elsewhere in Brazil, especially the Southeast. “Our relations with Arab countries are bigger than what trade numbers portray. We wish to get more goods directly from Arab countries, as well as to supply more goods from our state directly to those countries,” he said.
Arab Chamber numbers show that in 2018, Piauí ranked 22nd in exports from Brazilian states to Arab countries, with USD 2.4 million in sales and soy as the top-selling product. Piauí also ranked 22nd in imports, with fertilizer purchases from Egypt leading the way at USD 1.61 million. The state ranked 18th in exports to the entire world and 25th in imports from the world in 2018, and 26th in exports and 22nd in imports in H1 2019.
The governor encouraged a partnership in education. He said there’s a language school in the state where English, Spanish, French, Italian, German and Mandarin through videoconferencing with native teachers in their own countries. “We would like to add Arabic and to build that rapport. It could be good for both sides,” said the governor. Arab Chamber CEO Tamer Mansour said the Sultanate of Oman is interested in educational partnerships. “This is the kind of project the Chamber needs, with more than just a trade-oriented vision,” said Hannun.
During the meeting, the governor got invited to Wetex, a clean energy, water, environment and technology exhibition taking place in Dubai from October 21 to 23. Dias said he will attend. He also confirmed his attendance to Arab Chamber-hosted 2nd Brazil-Arab Countries Economic Forum, slated for April 16, 2020 in São Paulo.
The governor invited Hannun to the Northeast Governors’ Forum on August 21 in Teresina, Piauí, and to the Northeast edition of the Abdib Fórum, an event for business owners and governors hosted by the Brazilian Infrastructure and Base Industries Association, on August 22. Both invitations were accepted.
“It was a very productive meeting. We’re interested not only in buying and selling, but also in building strategic partnerships between Piauí, Northeast Brazil and the Arab countries,” said Hannun.
Both parties suggested joint actions, including meetings and a mission of Northeast governments to the Arab countries, at a date to be set in 2020.
The meeting was attended by the Arab Chamber’s Administrative VP Mohamed Mourad, Foreign Trade VP Ruy Cury, director William Atui, Marketing and Strategy director Janine Bezerra de Menezes, Marketing manager Karina Cassapula and Institutional Relations manager Fernanda Baltazar.
Dias is into his fourth term as governor of Piauí (2003-2006, 2007-2010, 2014-2018, 2019-2022).
Translated by Gabriel Pomerancblum