Brazilian diplomat calls for longer visas for Jamaicans

BY JULIAN RICHARDSON Assistant Business Co-ordinator richardsonj@jamaicaobserver.com

Wednesday, April 04, 2012

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JAMAICANS doing business with Brazil should get visas lasting five years, rather than 90 days, to enhance trade between the countries, said the Latin American giant's ambassador.


Antonio F Da Costa e Silva Neto said it would better facilitate local businesspersons seeking opportunities in the Portuguese-speaking country.


"If you look at both Jamaica and Brazil, on how the economies are structured and the similarities that we share, there is a lot of potential there that needs to be tapped," Da Costa e Silva Neto said yesterday at a Private Sector Organisation of Jamaica (PSOJ) breakfast in the Knutsford Court Hotel, New Kingston.


"That is a call to the business communities, particularly the Jamaican business community, to look more to the south and, in particular, Brazil for trade and investment opportunities," the ambassador said.


Jamaica runs a large trade deficit with its South American counterpart, with exports to Brazil in 2011 valued at US$1.24 million ($107 million) while Brazilian imports — primarily ethanol, alcohol and corned beef — into the country were worth US$174 million.


Lack of private sector knowledge among each country has been an impediment to trade relations, he suggested.


"While Jamaica is a brand well known in Brazil, and Brazil is a brand well known in Jamaica, the knowledge does not give space to business opportunities for both Jamaican and Brazilian companies," he said.


Brazil's economic size, economic diversification and growth performance (4.2 per cent since 2003) has made it the seventh largest economy in the world. By 2009, Brazil's economy was 40 per cent of the total GDP of Latin America and the Caribbean, and 55 per cent of the GDP of South America. It has a population of just under 200 million and a per capita GDP of US$10,500. It is the dynamic core of MERCOSUR, a group similar to Caricom which includes Argentina, Uruguay and Paraguay.


The Brazilian economy has at its disposal enormous natural resources, a massive agricultural sector which achieves economies of scale and draws on inexpensive labour and plentiful water supplies. Industrialisation is extensive, with production of everything from consumer goods and automobiles to submarines, steel and aircraft. It is involved in research and development across a range of products and has a satellite launching centre. It is the home market for many Brazilian-owned multinational corporations, including energy company Petrobras, which is among the 10 largest companies in the world.


Bilateral relations between Brazil and Jamaica have centred around ethanol production in recent years, with Brazilian policy geared towards using Jamaica as a hub to push its ethanol and bio-fuels into international markets. Brazil is currently providing support for two capacity building projects, primarily in sugarcane and ethanol production.


But Da Costa e Silva Neto noted that there are other opportunities. For instance, he said Brazil has a lucrative tourist market that Jamaica has failed to tap into — A mere 1,431 Brazilians visited Jamaica from January to November 2011, noted the ambassador.


"If you think about the market of tourism in Brazil and how much Brazilians travel abroad every year, this is not even marginal," the diplomat said. "The embasssy has been trying to work out ways in which we can help Jamaica promote itself in the Brazilian market.


"That is an important effort because with tourism comes business people, who may be through pleasure will look around and see business opportunities in Jamaica," he added.


Da Costa e Silva Neto said flight connections — because there are no direct flights from Brazil to Jamaica — is an obstacle for Jamaica in Brazil's tourist market, particularly because Brazilians in most cases have to get a US visa to travel to Jamaica because their flights connect through hubs in places such as Florida.


"There are a number of tourists from Brazil that would look into going to Jamaica, but will not because they need to get a US visa to transit through Miami or elsewhere," said Da Costa e Silva Neto. "For Brazilians to get a US visa, it's not an easy endeavour."


Silva Neto reasoned that Jamaica would need to first raise traffic from Brazil in order to justify an airline company investing in a direct flight from the South American country. He urged the Jamaica Tourist Board to work with Panamanian airline company, Copa, to build a flight package from Brazil to Jamaica via Panama.


"The problem there is that you don't have enough flights as yet from Panama to Montego Bay, which will be the usual destination," he admitted.


PSOJ Trade Policy Committee Chairman Earl Jarrett welcomed plans for the Jamaican government to establish a diplomatic mission in Brazil and expressed hope that it will strengthen Jamaica's trade relations with that country.


Alison Stone-Roofe was appointed Jamaica's first ambassador to Brazil in February.


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