The expansion of joint projects, investment promotion, and close contact with the business community are on the diplomat’s agenda to further intensify the bilateral relation
By Estela Cangerana
Brazil is already Quebec’s largest trading partner in South America, and the seventh largest international supplier to the province, which received 40% of everything sold by the country to Canada in 2020. Nevertheless, there is still plenty of space to expand bilateral relations and investments. This is expected to be one of the missions of the new Consul General of Brazil in Montreal, Ambassador Nedilson Jorge, who has been in charge of the Brazilian representation for Quebec and the Atlantic provinces, since December 2020.
In addition to exploring the great commercial vocation, the diplomat is also aware of the possibilities of intensifying technological and scientific cooperation, as well as the many opportunities in the educational and cultural fields.
“Despite this period of great challenges, I believe that the relations between Brazil and Quebec are at a most promising moment. Brazil’s importance, its economic power and the dynamism of its culture attract the attention of the Quebec government”, he affirms, highlighting the quite positive evolution of the numbers that express this relationship. “When we evaluate the bilateral trade data of the last decade, we can notice an annual growth of 2.3% in Quebec’s imports from Brazil, a rate that exceeds the annual increase of 0.29% in the province’s total imports”, adds the ambassador.
In 2020, despite the pandemic, Brazilian sales to Canadians registered a 12% expansion in relation to the previous year. The trade flow closed the period with a positive balance of CAD$ 2.1 billion for Brazil. From the total of CAD$ 6.5 billion shipped to Canada, CAD$ 2.6 billion were destined to Quebec.
In the commercial field, he highlights, among the many successful bilateral partnerships, the areas of mining, aerospace, agribusiness, life sciences, ground transportation, and technology and innovation.
Beyond trade, other promising areas of integration are expected to concentrate the diplomat’s attentions. “Quebec and Brazil share several priorities and can be considered complementary partners both institutionally and commercially. Partners that would benefit from a more intense exchange of ideas and solutions on different topics, from environmental protection policies to the development of innovative technologies”, he affirms. “We are working to identify and take advantage of sectoral opportunities and promoting Brazilian priorities as well”.
Among the examples is the Programa de Apoio à Pesquisa – Apoio a Iniciativas Internacionais de Pesquisa e Inovação, do Ministério da Economia, Ciência e Inovação (MESI) (Research Support Program – Support for International Research and Innovation Initiatives of the Ministry of Economy, Science and Innovation), which, since 2007, has been providing grants to finance about 20 networking and startup project initiatives, as well as research and innovation collaboration between Quebec and Brazil. “We want to expand more and more the number of joint projects”, he says.
Support for the diffusion of the French language is another important point. According to data from Observatório Demográfico e Estatístico do Espaço Francês (ODSEF) (Demographic and Statistical Observatory of the French Space), Brazil had, in 2016, about 765,000 lecturers and students who communicate, live, and create in French. “Although not an official member of the International Organization of La Francophonie, Brazil shares, in its own way, a number of similar values, which has resulted in several collaborations with Quebec institutions, including the promotion of human rights and gender equality”.
The ambassador also recalls that the country is one of the 143 states that have ratified the UNESCO Convention on the Protection and Promotion of the Diversity of Cultural Expressions. “I hope that, little by little, the language, instead of being seen as an obstacle in commercial relations, will start being seen as a distinct advantage in favor of Brazil.”
The educational field is also in the plans of the new consul in Montreal. “Canada is the number one international destination for Brazilian students and Quebec has universities of the highest quality and prestige. In addition, Brazil is the largest beneficiary of Canada’s Emerging Leaders Program in Latin America and Canadian education associations are regularly active in Brazil, and many of them have signed agreements with Brazilian government entities and with Brazilian universities”.
The opening of new opportunities in these and several other areas should be the result of the Consulate’s own initiatives and of joint actions with partner organizations, such as the CCBC, whether in missions, events, or business fairs. “These partnerships help us substantially to identify and take advantage of bilateral opportunities and to further increase Brazil’s visibility to Quebec and the Atlantic provinces”, says Jorge.
The close contact with the business community completes the work of supporting the intensification of bilateral relations. “I expect to maintain the meetings with Brazilian entrepreneurs established in the city through the morning meetings, continuing the program Café com Empreendedores (Coffee with Entrepreneurs). I also intend to maintain support for projects, such as trade missions, in sectors like agri-food, aerospace, infrastructure, technology, tourism, and design”, he explains.
Several initiatives are already in progress and bearing fruit. Recently, the Science, Technology, and Innovation Sector (SECTEC) of the Consulate General in Montreal was opened, as part of Programa Diplomacia da Inovação do Ministério das Relações Exteriores (Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ Innovation Diplomacy Program). With the program’s support, it was possible to organize a virtual mission of Brazilian artificial intelligence startups to the World Summit AI Americas this year, which also had the support of CCBC and partners such as Anprotec, Montreal International, and Sebrae.
With a bachelor’s degree in Law, Ambassador Nedilson Jorge is a career diplomat and, before being appointed to the Consulate General of Brazil in Montreal, he held the position of Ambassador of Brazil to South Africa (2016 to 2020). Throughout his career in diplomacy, he has held positions in different diplomatic areas and missions, including the Office of the Minister of Foreign Affairs (MRE) in Brasilia, Brazil’s Embassies in Argentina and Chile, and Brazil’s Representation to FAO in Rome. Between 2010 and 2016, he was the director of the Africa Department at the MRE in Brasilia, and between the years 2012 and 2016, he was also a professor for Brazilian and African students at the Rio Branco Institute, the academy of Brazilian diplomacy.