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Brazil and South Africa: Strategic Partnership for the Future

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I am honoured to visit South Africa for the first time in my capacity as Brazil’s Foreign Minister. It is my goal to work towards renewing the Brazil-South Africa Strategic Partnership and giving fresh impetus to the already strong relationship between our two countries.

Brazil and South Africa maintain a  constructive, open dialogue, not only concerning the common challenges we face as developing countries, but primarily because we hold democracy, human rights, and social inclusion as cherished common guiding values for our societies.

In the realm of foreign policy, both countries believe in multilateralism as the most suitable path to the fulfillment of a rules-based international order. As such, Brazil and South Africa often cooperate and coordinate their positions in multilateral fora and global governance mechanisms. At the United Nations or in groups such as the IBSA Forum, BRICS, the G20 and many others, our common sense of purpose highlights the strategic nature of our relationship.

The longstanding bonds of friendship resulting from the similarities and converging views between our nations generate opportunities for cooperation. The Brazilian government is determined to press our bilateral cooperation forward as a means to bring about concrete mutual benefits and to advance our common interests on the world stage.

My meeting with Foreign Minister Maite Nkoana-Mashabane follows on the numerous high level bilateral exchanges that have taken place between our countries over almost three decades of friendship. In 1991, as vice-governor of the State of São Paulo, I had the honour to welcome President Nelson Mandela, whose memorable visit to Brazil took place scarcely one year after he was released from prison. I would also like to mention the visit by President Fernando Henrique Cardoso to South Africa in 1996, as well as President Jacob Zuma’s visit to Brazil in 2014.

The converging views between Brazil and South Africa and the tremendous amount of existing mutual good will translate into a broad bilateral agenda, which comprises topics such as trade and investment; agriculture; science and technology; communications; culture; defense; education; energy; environment; health; film production; legal and juridical cooperation, among others.

The recent upturn in our cooperation in science and technology – a sector of enormous promise – gives us reason for optimism. The Agreement in the Field of Scientific and Technological Cooperation, in place since 2008, provides a solid basis for action.

It was this framework that enabled the implementation of the joint development of the A-Darter air-to-air missile, which is already near completion. This initiative has been funded by the Brazilian innovation agency FINEP and it is being carried out at facilities of the South African state defense company Denel, where Brazilian Air Force officers and technical staff from Brazilian private defense companies work side by side with their South African counterparts. The launching of a state-of-the-art piece of defense hardware, which can potentially be exported to third countries, gives reason for Brazil and South Africa to be proud. In the energy sector, initiatives with a view to the peaceful use of nuclear energy have also opened up new avenues for cooperation, which we will develop together in the coming years.

As far as our economic agenda is concerned, the  entry into force  (April 2016) of the Preferential Trade Agreement between Mercosur, the group whose founding members are Brazil, Argentina, Paraguay, and Uruguay, and the Southern African Customs Union (SACU) is excellent news. Chemicals, textile, steel, plastic, automotive, electronics and capital goods, as well as agricultural products, will all benefit when the agreement is effectively implemented.

I have no doubt the Mercosur-SACU Agreement will strengthen the trade flows between Brazil and South Africa – which reached US$ 1.57 billion last year. It is worth noting that 73 percent of Brazilian exports to South Africa and 58 percent of South African exports to Brazil correspond to high-value-added goods, which is quite impressive in light of the fact the global exports of both countries are highly dependent on commodities (above 60 percent in both cases).

Considering that Brazil and South Africa are leading FDI destinations in the world, our countries could benefit from closer cooperation in this area as well. Brazil is ready to discuss the adoption of a normative framework with a focus on the creation of direct lines of communication between governments, which would avoid judicialization of disputes regarding investments, while preserving the state’s ability to address related social and environmental issues.

The tourism sector also offers opportunities for closer collaboration. Brazil and South Africa both have adequate infrastructure and organizational capabilities to welcome foreign visitors – as demonstrated in the FIFA World Cups organized in South Africa (2010) and in Brazil (2014), as well as in the Rio de Janeiro 2016 Summer Olympic and Paralympic Games. Tourist flows between Brazil and South Africa are growing very fast. Partly owing to new airline routes between São Paulo and Johannesburg, passenger volume more than trebled between February 2016 and February 2017. That Brazilians and South Africans are crossing the Atlantic to get to know each other is great news.

Brazil and South Africa are two of a kind. In times of international turbulence and uncertainty, a solid Strategic Partnership between two rising democracies of the developing world – underpinned by a strong and diversified bilateral agenda – may serve as an indispensable shield against the looming threat of protectionism and great power rivalry. I am hopeful that my visit to this beautiful country will further highlight the convergence of points of view between our countries on some of the global agenda’s most pressing issues. More intense trade exchanges and enhanced cooperation between us will bring jobs, income and prosperity for both our societies. Closer political coordination between Brasilia and Pretoria might make our respective regions, if not the international system itself, more peaceful, stable and equitable.

H.E Mr. Aloysio Nunes Ferreira is the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Brazil