Brazil grabs Norway’s attention

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Top Norwegian government officials were heading back to Brazil this week, marking their third ministerial visit in recent months. They think Brazil has emerged as such an important player on the world stage that they’ve developed their own special “Brazil strategy” to guide ongoing relations.

“There’s been a quantum leap in the bilateral relation between Norway and Brazil,” Foreign Minister Jonas Gahr Støre told news bureau NTB. He called that “a good example of how two quite different countries can complement each other.”

He specifically referred to Norwegian and Brazilian cooperation on attempts to save rain forests, which Norway is helping to fund and Brazil is carrying out, along with cooperation on trade issues before the World Trade Organisation (WTO), where the two countries don’t always agree but work closely together.

‘Most important partner’
Støre called Brazil “Norway’s most important partner in Latin America.” The new “Brazil strategy” is meant to strengthen, deepen and further develop contact within business, climate and environmental issues, human rights issues, culture and educational exchanges.

Støre was supposed to be along on this week’s ministerial mission to Brazil, but had to cancel at the last minute because of Norway’s participation in the UN-backed international coalition’s military operation in Libya. Støre and the foreign ministers of other participating countries were called to London for a summit on the situation.

His government colleague Erik Solheim, who serves as cabinet minister both for foreign aid and the environment, was traveling to Brazil on Monday, however. He had meetings scheduled with both representatives of the Brazilian government in Brasilia and would present Norway’s Brazil strategy at a meeting in Rio de Janeiro on Thursday.

Expanding economy
Brazil has emerged as the world’s 10th-largest economy and continues to develop large offshore oil fields and hydro-electric plants. Several Norwegian companies are already actively involved in the country, and King Harald’s brother-in-law Erling Lorentzen has been an industrialist in Brazil since the 1950s.

It was especially after Lula da Silva became president of Brazil that the country became an important international player. Solheim noted that “Lula was able to be friends with both US President Barack Obama and Iran’s president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, and be the hero of the poor i Brazil at the same time he was a friend of business.” Now Brazil has a new president, Dilma Rousseff, an economist who was Lula’s former chief of staff and is the first woman to hold the office.

Solheim’s trip follows last month’s trip by Trade Minister Trond Giske, who had with him a record-large business delegation. Former Oil and Energy Minister Terje Riis-Johansen visited Brazil last fall as well.

Views and News from Norway/Nina Berglund
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