Brazil risks halal meat exports with Israel embassy move

Brazil risks halal meat exports with Israel embassy move

Bolsonaro’s decision to put ambassador in Jerusalem could lead to boycotts

Brazil’s agriculture minister has tried to calm fears that the world’s biggest exporter of halal beef risks a boycott by Muslim countries over its decision to move the Brazilian embassy in Israel to Jerusalem. “Muslim markets are important and we need to open more of those, in Asia, where there are several countries in which we are interested, Indonesia being one of them — they have 200m people,” Tereza Cristina Corrêa told the Financial Times in an interview. “Brazil cannot fight with anyone. We are friendly.” Tereza Cristina Correa, Brazil's agriculture minister, is considering a political pragmatist in Bolsonaro's cabinet Motivated by his evangelical beliefs, voter base, and admiration for Donald Trump, President Jair Bolsonaro wants to follow in the footsteps of the US leader and transfer the embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. Such a move, meat processors and lobby groups warn, could put Brazil’s market dominance in halal meat at stake. Brazil sent more than $3.5bn worth of chicken and beef to Arab countries last year. In 2017 Brazil had a $7.1bn trade surplus with the Arab League and a $419m trade deficit with Israel. Last month, Ahmed Aboul Gheit, secretary-general of the Arab League, sent a letter to Mr Bolsonaro expressing concern over the embassy move. Rubens Hannun, president of the Arab-Brazilian Chamber of Commerce, warned “uncertainty about a possible retaliation from Arab nations” threatened a loss of market share by Brazilian products which comply with Muslim dietary rules. Ms Corrêa said she was aware of the “preferences” of her rightwing government on the issue, but promised that Brazil would remain the world’s “powerhouse of halal”. “We’re going to sit down and talk with the government about it……I think that things are adjusting, we know the preferences of this government, but one thing is practice [the other is rhetoric.]” Benjamin Netanyahu was a guest of honour during the inauguration of the far-right Brazilian president on New Year's Day. Mr Netanyahu said his relationship with Mr Bolsonaro, whose supporters often wave Israeli flags, was “not just friendship, not a pact of interest, it’s also a pact of brothers”. Analysts say Mr Bolsonaro’s pledge to move the Brazilian embassy has exposed divisions in his cabinet between the more pragmatic ministers, such as Ms Corrêa, who is the former head of the agricultural legislative caucus, and the most ideological ones, such as Ernesto Araújo, the Christian conservative foreign minister. Mr Araújo seems poised to overturn Brazil’s longstanding tradition of consensual diplomacy: he has called climate change a Marxist plot, wants to create a bloc of large Christian countries, and has taken Brazil out of the global pact on immigration. Mr Corrêa played down the impact of such positions: “The thing is, the government is starting . . . we have not set the tone yet. The orchestra is still in the rehearsal, we are tuning.” Guilherme Casarões, a professor of Brazil-Middle East relations, said Argentina and Paraguay were waiting to capitalise on any loss of market share by Brazil in beef exports. “The Arabs already delivered the message that this move would jeopardise Brazil’s good relations with them, which may translate into some type of commercial boycott,” he said. The embassy move is also unpopular with senior Brazilian army members and seasoned diplomats who feel it will draw Brazil, home to a large Lebanese community, into thorny Middle East geopolitics. Another big challenge for Ms Corrêa is how to handle her government’s relations with China, her country’s main trading partner and source of foreign investment, which Mr Bolsonaro has criticised while embracing the US. This has come at a time when the trade war between Washington and Beijing has provided a boost to Brazilian agricultural producers whose soyabean exports to China jumped from $20.3bn in 2017 to $27.3bn last year. “One thing is the government’s rhetoric, but the agricultural sector has an open dialogue with China and with other countries . . . This will continue,” she said. “No one wants to fight China. China is our ally. Now, we have to make clear what we want, not for China to come here demanding what they want.”

www.prensa.cancilleria.gob.ar es un sitio web oficial del Gobierno Argentino