By Sarah de Sainte Croix, Senior Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – Last month Rio welcomed in the new Canadian Consul General, Mr. Sanjeev Chowdhury. With a busy three-year-term ahead of him, Chowdhury has ambitious plans to develop and expand the Canadian community in Rio and to keep Canada “front and center in the minds of Brazilians,” he told The Rio Times.
Chowdhury explains, “[One of our main goals] is to build a Canadian community here that meets regularly, develop a monthly newsletter for Canadians and Brazilians to let them know what’s happening with our Consulate General [and] invite them to participate in our activities.”
Although the Consulate does not have precise figures about the size of the Canadian community in Rio, they estimate that there are upwards of 100 Canadian nationals either living or working here at any one time. According to their statistics, over 50,000 Canadians visited Brazil last year.
But the flow of traffic is not just one way. In 2010, over 17,000 Brazilians traveled north into Canada to undertake language courses in French and/or English. A further 2,200 Brazilian students registered in Canadian university programs, which makes Canada “the number one destination for Brazilian students in the world,” according to Chowdhury.
“About ninety percent of Brazilian students who applied to study in Canada were approved for a study visa,” he explains. “So Canada is grooming the future leaders of Brazil.”
In terms of politics, Chowdhury’s mandate is to build on the shared interests and values that exist between Brazil and Canada, including advancing democracy, security and prosperity in the Americas and globally, and strengthening the multilateral system.
A key area of diplomatic collaboration between the two countries in recent years has been in assisting with aid and development in Haiti within the framework of the UN’s Stabilization Mission. Joint projects have included improving livelihoods and security in vulnerable areas through Viva Rio (a Brazilian NGO), and helping to strengthen the Haitian National Vaccination Program.
“Canada and Brazil’s collaboration has taken on even greater importance … after the earthquake in Haiti in January 2010,” he comments.
Chowdhury is also keen to develop existing trade and business links between the two countries and to foster new ones.
In 2010 bilateral trade between Brazil and Canada reached C$5.9 billion. Canadian exports to Brazil rose sixty percent while imports from Brazil rose 27.5 percent compared to 2009.
In the same year Brazil became Canada’s eighth largest foreign investor with C$13.5 billion in cumulative investment. In return, Canada invested a total of C$9.7 billion in Brazil, making it the eleventh largest recipient of Canadian foreign direct investment last year.
“These kinds of numbers represent huge increases year over year, and we are working hard to keep up the momentum … but there is always room for more growth,” Chowdhury says.
Over the past few years, key exports from Canada to Brazil have included fertilizers, mineral fuels and oils, machinery, pharmaceutical products and paper and paper board. Canada is hoping to expand its sphere of influence in Brazil by promoting its expertise in the fields of oil and gas, infrastructure, electric power, ports and ocean technology, and by leveraging its experience of hosting last year’s Winter Olympic Games.
“When I leave Rio in three years, I want everyone in this region to know that Canada is a valued and trusted partner for Brazil. That would be the ultimate legacy to leave behind,” he declares.
The Consulate General of Canada, Rio de Janeiro is located at Av. Atlantica 1130, 5th Floor, Copacabana, Rio de Janeiro. Find out more at their website.