At the Jordan-Brazil Investment Forum
Sao Paulo, Brazil
24 October 2008
Thank you Mr. Sarkis. I am delighted to help inaugurate this important event. Here today are distinguished members of Brazil’s private sector, as well as leaders from government, the media, and more. A warm welcome to you all.
Mr. Sarkis, allow me to extend a special thanks to you and your team at the Arab-Brazilian Chamber of Commerce. The Chamber represents Latin America’s largest Arab community, and one of the world’s most vibrant. It is an honour to share this occasion with all of you.
This is my first visit to your country, and I hope it is the first of many. In Jordan, Brazil is deeply respected as a power in the new global economy, as a model of multi-cultural harmony and as a force for the transformation of the developing world. To me, one of Brazil’s most critical contributions is its message to other growing nations; a message about South-South partnership, and its vital role in our future.
For decades, even longer, the developed world has set the pace and course for the world economy. Trends rooted in the developed economies have carried opportunity. But they have also carried challenges. Today we are seeing linked crises, in finance, energy, and food, rock the economic outlook across the globe.
But the new, global economy has also brought something else, something extraordinary. And that is an unprecedented role for the developing and emerging economies. With expanding markets and effective reforms, our group has begun setting the pace in global trade and economic growth. More and more business enterprises in our countries are emerging as trans-national companies. Our economic activity is increasingly taking place within the developing world itself. As fast as world trade has risen, South-South trade has risen faster. A growing share of outward-investment from developing economies is now being invested in other developing countries.
This cooperation is vital. Because of course, despite all the gains, our world still faces huge gaps in global wealth and economic opportunity. The developed nations still hold dominant shares of global trade and investment. The bottom line is that too many people, on every continent, are still waiting for the promise that global opportunity can bring.
For our countries of the South, the future depends on what we do now, to include those who have been excluded, to create opportunities for our young and growing populations and to take our rightful place in shaping the global economic system.
I believe our countries can succeed. We are on a path forward. We have the knowledge. We have the talent. But we cannot succeed in isolation. We have to work as partners. We have to be pro-active.
That means a new level of cooperation between us. We need new alliances for development. Brazil has taken a notable role in building these South-South ties. It was here, in Brasília, three years ago, that the first Arab-Latin American Summit took place.
Brazil has also provided welcome support for Jordan’s cooperation agreement with MERCOSUR, which formalises the intention to establish a free trade agreement. I am hopeful that soon, we can take the next step, to an FTA.
The private sector has its own special role in South-South ties. Often, you have the greatest opportunities to design effective partnerships that will benefit both sides. That effort is already in process. Today, a cooperation agreement is being signed between the Arab-Brazilian Chamber of Commerce and its Jordanian counterpart. In December, private sector leaders will hold discussions inside meetings at the Arab-American Summit. It is essential to support these connections. I hope that this Forum will help create more.
Jordan is committed, not only to our formal partnership with Brazil, but to private sector ties that can drive economic growth on both sides. It begins with a strong national strategy, encouraging business and investment. In Jordan, enabling laws, and transparency policies, have created positive conditions for investment. Fiscal discipline and sound economic policies have helped us reduce external debt. Foreign currency reserves have quadrupled since 1999. About 90 percent of government-owned companies have already been privatised, and our goal is 100 percent. Public investment is being directed towards sustainable development and the tools our people need to create productive, prosperous lives.
One priority is Jordan’s human-resource base. We want to enhance and even improve the potential and skills of our young population, to give employers a capable and ready workforce.
We have also worked to take advantage of our unique position as a regional and global gateway. A new, ambitious infrastructure plan will ensure a modern transport network and new telecom links. Special economic and development zones are in place at the port of Aqaba and across the country. And an extensive network of free trade agreements provide access to customers in Europe, in Singapore and Asia, in the US, and more.
These are just some examples of Jordan’s economic strategy. I am pleased to report that it is already achieving positive results. And I see that progress as just beginning. Meanwhile, we are looking ahead, and taking action, now, to prepare for future challenges. We have initiatives in place to develop and manage limited water resources. Even before the global energy-price crisis, we began looking at new energy sources, including solar, wind, and nuclear. I hope that in the days ahead we can look to Brazil’s experience in alternative and renewable energies.
Jordan has long been the home of moderation and progress, a voice for regional peace and integration and a leader for worldwide dialogue and respect. All this, plus Jordan’s strong stability, is making Jordan a great place for global business.
The time has come to build our partnership. In fact, cooperation is already underway in the energy sector: Petrobras will soon conduct a feasibility study on exploration of shale oil in Jordan, and there is scope for the exchange of expertise and investment in alternative energy. From the heartland of our shared religious history, Jordan’s tourist industry can open doors for Brazilians to visit the ancient sites of their faith.
It is my hope that today and in the weeks ahead, you will explore the many opportunities for partnerships with Jordan – in mining, transport, pharmaceuticals, medical tourism, downstream industries, and more.
Again, thank you for your participation in today’s Forum. There is no work more important than what you are doing.
I wish you the greatest success.