BRAZIL and Jamaica must move beyond exchanges in just music and culture, and deepen their trade relations, says the Brazilian ambassador to Jamaica.
"We need to know each other better. Brazil needs to know Jamaica beyond reggae and Usain Bolt. These are certainly great brands, but we need to make these brands connect," Antonio Francisco da Costa e Silva Neto stated in his keynote address at a luncheon hosted by JN Small Business Loans Limited (JNSBL) at the Jamaica Pegasus hotel in Kingston.
"Jamaica needs to talk not only about looking 'south' but they have to 'do the walk south'," the ambassador added at the luncheon aimed at strengthening the dialogue to increase business between the two countries.
He commended the Donovan McFarlane-led Jamaica-Brazil Chamber of Commerce delegation to Jamaica, adding that the time had come for Jamaica to establish a sister organisation in Kingston to deepen the discussions about doing business with Brazil.
"We should have a sister organisation to develop closer ties, which does not only involve trade; but investment and joint venture investments; partnerships, to not only tap into the Brazilian and Jamaican markets, but to also to tap into markets that Brazil may have access to, such as other South American markets," he declared.
He also maintained that the Brazilian Embassy was willing and ready to help.
"The Brazilian Embassy is not only here to promote sports, as good as that would be; but we are also here to help Jamaica to export more to Brazil," he stated.
His comments were welcomed by Earl Jarrett, general manager of Jamaica National,who said the local private sector could look at establishing a "business club" to facilitate greater knowledge-sharing about the opportunities for business in Brazil and Jamaica, and facilitate talks on issues impacting trade between the two countries.
According to Jarrett, there is still a lack of knowledge about opportunities for the private sector in both countries, which has been an impediment to trade during the past 50 years, despite the diplomatic relationship between the nations.
"Such a facility would help to support the work the Jamaica-Brazil Chamber of Commerce, which is already providing another space for dialogue on the possibilities and the issues that prevent us from capitalising on our bilateral relations over the past century," Jarrett said.
The JN general manager noted that there was still a need for a regularised visa agreement between the countries, to facilitate Jamaicans seeking to trade with Brazil. Under the current visa agreement, Jamaicans who hold diplomatic passports and official passports may stay in Brazil for up to 90 days, while ordinary Jamaicans are required to obtain a visa, although Brazilians may stay in Jamaica for up to 30 days without a visa.
He added that there was also need for better air linkages between the countries if Jamaica is to improve business with Brazil, pointing to "the lack of direct flights between the two countries, which is a barrier to the need for expanded cooperation with the South American nation".
Echoing a similar point, Arnaldo Brown, minister of state in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade, added that the ease of travel is critical to trade with Brazil. And, in relation to tourism, he said, "At present we are aware that out of South Africa there are direct flights into Brazil and Jamaica is going to see how we can make that full circle from Brazil into Kingston."
Brown said, in that regard, the issue of intra-regional travel also needed to be tackled. He suggested that the proposed logistics hub will become important to travel, "because, we are not only speaking about the movement of people, but cargo, as well."
Industry Minister Anthony Hylton noted that the transhipment project was vital to vastly improving the island's competitiveness, and should deepen Jamaica-Brazil trade relations.
"With the logistics hub you are talking about a greater integration of Jamaica into the global economy and the movement of passengers and goods globally," he stated. "We will have the links between Jamaica and Brazil enhanced."
With constant high economic growth rates and a population of nearly 200 million people, Brazil is the world's seventh largest economy and is also considered the seventh largest in terms of purchasing power parity, with GDP per capita of some US$10,200.
In his remarks, Donovan McFarlane, president of the Jamaica-Brazil Chamber of Commerce, noted that more than 45 million Brazilians had moved into the middle class in recent years.
"And with their assent into the world of the middle class has come a world of new consumer opportunities. This rising consumer class is expected to be a driving force in facilitating the strength in the consumer market due to its exceptional spending power," he stated.
However, despite these opportunities, Jamaica has maintained a trade deficit with Brazil. In 2012 imports from Brazil of mostly ethanol and corned beef, amounted to US$240 million, according to the Statistical Institute of Jamaica, while exports from Jamaica to Brazil amounted to US$9.4 million leaving a deficit of US$230.4 million.
McFarlane said the 2014 World Cup and 2016 Olympic Games will provide further opportunities for entrepreneurs in Jamaica and other countries to expand their businesses, noting that the Jamaica-Brazil Chamber was willing to support businesses ready to make a move.
"The Jamaica-Brazil Chamber of Commerce seeks the cooperation and support of businesses and organisations to afford us the opportunity of moving forward together," McFarlane affirmed. "We are ready and equipped with the tools necessary to help you to achieve success."