[About this blog] Inspired by local soccer player Mike Lim during my rookie reporter days at Singapore Polytechnic, I set up this blog in August 2002. I feel that blogging is a novel platform to document interesting facets of my life and my thoughts on certain issues. [Email blogger] ephraim@singnet.com.sg

Friday, August 24, 2007

[FEALAC]
1. In the last two days, I represented Singapore at the Forum for East Asia - Latin America Cooperation (FEALAC) in Brasilia. There are 33 countries in FEALAC. On the East Asian side, we have 15 countries - ASEAN 10, China, Japan, Korea, Australia and NZ. On the Latin American side, all the Spanish and Portuguese countries of South and Central America are included. FEALAC was first proposed by Singapore and Chile a number of years ago. Ministerial meetings are held every two years, alternating across the Pacific.



2. The agenda is not earth-shaking but useful. It consists mostly of practical items of cooperation - promoting trade flows, tourism, student exchanges, and such. Singapore has been hosting Latin American journalists to our part of the world every year. The greatest benefit of the forum is the opportunity to have bilateral meetings with ministers from many countries and explore opportunities for cooperation. The mood at this year's meeting was particularly good because trade and investment flows between the two regions have been growing nicely.



3. Everytime a bridge is built, the people on both sides benefit, even those who don't use the bridge. There can also be problems of course but, generally speaking, the benefits far outweigh the costs. By building an additional bridge across the Pacific, FEALAC creates opportunities for the people of East Asia and Latin America. What everyone seeks in the end is a better life which trade and investments bring.

4. Our Brazilian host arranged a breakfast meeting between the ministers of ASEAN and MERCOSUR. MERCOSUR, like ASEAN, is a grouping of countries in South America, consisting of Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay and Paraguay. Venezuela has applied to join. The meeting went rather well with both sides agreeing on the need for greater engagement. Brazil proposed a meeting of ministers next year which I supported.



5. It took me almost 35 hours to fly from Singapore to Brasilia including transit in Frankfurt and Sao Paulo. But it was worth the long journey. Brazil is Singapore's biggest trading partner in South America. The frozen chicken and chicken parts that we consume in Singapore are mostly imported from Brazil. We have significant investments in the country. Between Keppel and Jurong, our shipyards in Brazil employ over 15,000 workers, building over 50% of the platforms used for offshore oil drilling. More Brazilian companies are also coming to do business in Singapore.

6. Brazil is much more than soccer and samba. With a land area of some 8.5 million sq km, it probably has more arable land that any other country on earth. It is already an agricultural superpower and will become even more so in the future. The country has another million sq km of land which can be opened up for cultivation. The growing middle classes in Asia will provide an enormous market for Brazil's production of meats, soy bean, ethanol, steel, pulp and a host of other items.





More on Brasilia here

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