"Brazil is very important to Norway"
Norway´s minister of foreign affairs, Mr. Børge Brende, visits Rio de Janeiro and Brasilia and confirms that the new Norwegian government will stick to the Brazil strategy and maintain a heavy focus on Brazil
"The fact that I visit Brazil only four months after taking office clearly shows what the new Norwegian government thinks about this country. Brazil is extremely important to Norway", Mr. Brende said to journalists during his first visit to Brazil as minister of foreign affairs. It is however not the first time he visits Brazil.
“I'm impressed every time I come here, and you could say that Rio is a hub for Norway in Brazil”, Mr. Brende said during a business lunch at the consul's residence on February 19, 2014.
Mr. Brende arrived in Rio de Janeiro in the morning on February 19, and went directly to a meeting with the vice president of BNDES, Mr. Wagner Bittencourt. Norwegian-Brazilian relations were discussed, as well as the Amazon Fund. Norway and Brazil recently signed a revised agreement on the fund.
Mr. Brende's schedule in Rio de Janeiro was busy, but the combination of meetings pleased the minister.
“This certainly shows the diversity of the Norwegian presence in Brazil. Norway is the 7th biggest investor here. Hopefully this will lead to further growth and to the creation of new jobs”, he said.
Representatives from some of the most significant Norwegian companies and institutions in Rio de Janeiro were among the guests at the lunch hosted by Consul General Helle Klem in her residence in Urca. NBCC president Paulo Rolim was invited to say a few words to the minister.
“The picture of Brazil has somewhat changed since strategy of the Norwegian government was launched in 2011, but the NBCC can contribute to adjusting the strategy to current conditions. Brazil needs the support from Norway. It is safe to say that Brazil is not for beginners. I believe the risk will remain the coming years and the challenges prevail, but we have found a lot of oil, and this oil will stay in the ground until someone takes it out”, Mr. Rolim said.
Ricardo Cesar Fernandes from Norwegian Shipowners Association/Abran explained to the minister how the lack of qualified seafarers is a problem to the industry.
“We rely on assistance from Norwegian authorities as we progress”, he said.
CEO of Instituto Sintef do Brasil, Kjetil Solbrække said that Brazil and Norway share several of the same challenges, and that he experiences a huge interest in collaboration with Norway.
“Both our countries would benefit from a closer collaboration, and a lot of progress is being made, but we need flexibility on both sides”, Mr. Solbrække said.
According to Børge Brende, the strategy on Brazil, launched by the previous government in 2011, will be maintained, and he appreciated the input from the Norwegian business community in Rio.
“When Norwegian companies succeed abroad, they create jobs back home, and we would like to support you in the best possible way. The new government is very concerned with research and development, and education is something we give priority in our involvement abroad. We believe we can become a partner, with Sintef and through universities in both countries. I would also like to see more Norwegians going the study in Brazil, and learn Portuguese. This is very important, as Brazil is one of the most important nations of the century.”
Off to the beach
After lunch, the Norwegian delegation headed to Copacabana, where minister Brende met Tommy Nilsen and the players of Karanba.
Olsen´s successful social project and how Nilsen uses football as a way to help the players grow as human beings, impressed Brende.
“It's great that Norway can support this effort”, he said. The minister was also invited to play ball with the kids, and he even scored a goal, on penalty, before he said goodbye to the many talented young players.
In the afternoon, the Norwegian minister of foreign affairs met governor Sergio Cabral in the Palacio Guanabara in Rio de Janeiro.
The minister left for Brasilia in the evening, and on February 20, he met his Brazilian colleague, Mr. Luiz Alberto Figueiredo, and gave a speech to students at the Rio Branco Institute.
Before coming to Brazil, Mr. Brende spent two days in Colombia, where the Colombian peace process was the main topic discussed in bilateral meetings between Brende and Colombian president Juan Manuel Santos. A Memorandum of Understanding on closer collaboration and regular political talks was signed by Mr. Brende and his colleague, María Ángela Holguín.
By Runa Hestmann, NBCC journalist
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