In an interview published in the previous issue of Diplomacy and Trade, the Brazilian Ambassador to Hungary, Sergio Eduardo Moreira Lima says his objective is to enhance the diplomatic profile of Brazil and promote closer ties with Hungary.
“I see a growing convergence of interests as we share fundamental principles and values. Besides our commitment to democracy and to the rule of law, Brazil and Hungary play an active role within the international arena to strengthen multilateralism and international cooperation in order to overcome global challenges.” Ambassador Sergio Eduardo Moreira Lima adds that he is very pleased to see Latin America and specifically Brazil being included, for the first time, in a document about the priorities of Hungarian foreign policy. In the interview, he also talks in detail about the different aspects of bilateral relations, how Hungarians and Brazilians complement each other and what the similarities are between his hometown, Rio de Janeiro and Budapest.
The main objectives
As Ambassador Lima recalls, he accepted the ambassadorial post in Budapest “gladly not only because of the experience of serving in Hungary, a member country of the European Union, which is the main trading partner of Brazil, but also because it would represent something special for my family and particularly for my wife, whose parents were born here and immigrated to Brazil.” His main objective is to enhance the diplomatic profile of Brazil and promote closer ties with Hungary.
“We must implement some agreements that we have recently signed. They will contribute to high level political consultations and more frequent contacts. As a consequence, trade, investment and cooperation should significantly increase. We are grateful to Hungary and the Hungarian Academy of Sciences for the announcement that the 6th World Science Forum will be held in Rio de Janeiro in 2013 – the first time outside Hungary.
It creates a positive circumstance and encouragement for greater bilateral scientific and technological cooperation, as well as higher education and innovation exchanges,” he says. A Brazilian delegation visits Hungary this year to define projects in areas ranging from biotechnology to aquaculture. Traditionally, Hungary has cooperated with Brazil in aquaculture, animal health, artificial insemination of cattle, irrigation and wine production in the semi-arid climate.
As regards political relations, in 2010, Brazil and Hungary signed a memorandum of understanding on diplomatic consultations. Ambassador Lima believes “this is an important political tool for the exchange of ideas and points of view on a regular basis” that recently included the visit by the Speaker of the National Assembly of Hungary to Brazil last October and the reopening of Hungary’s Consulate General in São Paulo, where the largest Hungarian community in Latin America lives.
This was followed by the visit of the President of the Committee on Science, Technology and Innovation of the Chamber of Deputies and President of the Parliamentary Friendship Group Brazil-Hungary to Budapest last November. Next June, the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development (known as Rio + 20, because it is a follow-up of the Earth Summit of 1992) will take place in Rio de Janeiro where Hungary will be represented at the highest level.
Business and economy
On the economic front “our exchanges of goods and services remain very modest if we take into account the size and the complementarities of the two economies,” the Ambassador points out. Total two-way merchandise trade in 2011 amounted to only USD 417 million, with Brazilian exports of USD 134 million and imports of USD 282 million. Brazil imports mainly Hungarian car parts and information technology goods. Major Brazilian exports to Hungary include leather, auto equipment, wood pulp and coffee. “They should include in the future more value added products such as airplanes,” he adds.
Investments are also small but growing. After the accession of Hungary to the European Union in 2004, it became a potential base for Brazilian business operations in the EU, especially in the Central-Eastern European region. With the enforcement of the Agreement on Economic Cooperation, its implementation and the exchange of business missions will promote trade and investment.
Expanding Brazilian market
BR Foods and Fibria have opened offices in Budapest recently. The Ambassador is of the view that their eventual success will lead other Brazilian companies to invest in Hungary. “They may also promote business partnerships between our two countries in biotechnology, pharmaceuticals, aeronautics and information technology.
Brazil is a dynamic economy which will continue to grow in the decades to come as we expand our internal market and increase its purchasing power. The growth of Brazil’s domestic market has played an important role in enabling us to cope with the latest world financial crisis. Brazil’s economy is less dependent on foreign trade and the internal market represents a much larger share of Brazil’s GDP.”
He adds that there is also considerable potential in cultural relations. “There is a large Hungarian community in Brazil and we have a smaller but very active Brazilian community here, mainly in Budapest. ELTE and other Hungarian colleges and universities teach Portuguese and there is growing interest in the language as well as in Brazilian music, folklore and literature. Capoeira, Brazilian jiu-jitsu, and samba dancing are quite popular in Hungary.
From time to time, the Embassy donates Brazilian books to OIK and ELTE’s libraries where a lectorate may become a Center for Brazilian Studies.” In cooperation with ELTE, the Embassy is also investing in the translation into the Hungarian language of basic books on Brazil like the recently published ‘Concise History of Brazil’ by Boris Fausto (see page xx). New Hungarian-Portuguese and Portuguese-Hungarian dictionaries were also published last year.
The Brazilian Embassy has introduced the cultural project ‘Get to know Brazil’, “an open invitation to our friends in Hungary to get more acquainted with our nation and its diverse culture. Encouraged by the presence of Brazilians in Hungary, the Embassy organized ‘Brazil Week’ in September, in collaboration with the Council of Brazilian Citizens. There were exhibitions of Brazilian paintings, jewelry, a gastronomic festival, carnival parades and the screening of a Brazilian film,” the Ambassador says.
2012 started with two recitals of Brazilian popular and classical music at the Óbudai Társaskör Cultural Center (see page xx) with compositions by Heitor Villa-Lobos, who is to Brazil what Béla Bartók and Ferenc Liszt are to Hungarian music. The Brazilian maestro Rodrigo de Carvalho, who completed his studies at the Liszt Ferenc Music Academy in Budapest, is a permanent guest conductor of Hungary’s MÁV Orchestra, while Brazilian pianist Thiago Bertoldi is currently a student at the Liszt Ferenc Academy of Music in Budapest.
Feeling comfortable here
Ambassador Lima says he and his wife have travelled extensively within Hungary. “We were particularly impressed by the colors of Lake Balaton, the landscapes of Tokaj and the charming old town of Pécs to name just a few. We enjoy the country’s cuisine and have to play a lot of tennis afterwards to burn calories.” They feel comfortable in Budapest, “a beautiful city, in many aspects similar to Rio de Janeiro, our hometown. Hungarians are always very friendly, especially if you make an effort to speak their language.”
The ambassador believes “Brazil’s dynamism, enthusiasm and creativity can be complemented by Hungarian ingenuity and discipline. Both of these creative and hardworking people have a tradition of cooperation in areas which have become part of the response to world global challenges such as food security, sustainable development and environment. Brazil and Hungary can further develop their political bilateral and multilateral cooperation towards this objective,” he concludes.