About Brazilian Football, Aircraft Engineering, The Olympics in Rio and Mutual Affection between Russia and Brazil
It started snowing in Moscow. We are walking carefully towards ‘Smolensky Passage’. The doors of the shopping mall are welcoming us with the glamour of its luxurious boutiques. Overcoming the temptation, we head further to the Business Centre. However, even the most sophisticated shopping can’t be compared to visiting Brazil. Mr. Almir Ribeiro Americo, the Head of Moscow Representative Office, kindly invited us to Apex-Brasil, the Brazilian Trade and Investment Promotion Agency.
Company employees are welcoming us with their smiles and taking care of our coats. Picturesque blue walls, bright sunny posters and green leather armchairs creatе an amazing feeling of being in a faraway exotic country. Add to this freshly roasted Brazilian coffee and you will get a special atmosphere for a friendly conversation.
A bit of Linguistics
Mr. Americo, our compliments to your Russian. Where did you study it?
Actually, I’m a physicist. After graduation I decided to continue my education in Moscow. I began to study Russian at the preparatory course before entering the postgraduate studies in The Moscow State University. It was a long time ago, back in the 90s... Unfortunately, I couldn't finish the postgraduate training programme. Having received an exciting proposal, I returned to Brazil. When trade between our countries started developing, I was invited to work for a Russian company that had suppliers in Brazil. Of course, being duty-bound, I travelled to Russia again. That was my second meeting with the country. Of course, that was not the same Russia which I had visited in the beginning of my career. The more I visited the country, the more I realized that it was changing for the better. Therefore, when Apex-Brasil decided to open its Representative Office in Moscow and invited me to work there, I couldn't miss this chance.
Perhaps Russian is not the only foreign language you speak?
I also speak Spanish quite well. It is very similar to my mother tongue, Portuguese, so Brazilian people find it easy to learn Spanish. I speak a bit of English, too... ("Not true, it is very good!" — emotionally exclaims Julia, Mr. Americo’s assistant.) Okay, okay! In fact, I'd be happy if we spoke Russian more in the office. However, my colleagues do not give me a chance to improve my Russian: their Portuguese is too good.
Is the knowledge of Portuguese obligatory in your international team?
I would say it is rather desirable. Apex-Brasil is proud of its strong external control. All correspondence is conducted in Portuguese. In the second half of the day (when the Brazilian office starts operating) we get in touch, discuss some issues and solve problems. The knowledge of Portuguese makes communication easier. I believe that the Russian Representative Office of Apex-Brasil is very lucky in this matter: it's amazing how many Russian professionals speak Portuguese perfectly! We work with Russian companies, for example, at the exhibitions and see that the professional level of the Russians is high. This applies to any field.
In your opinion, how does the Brazilian mentality differ from the Russian one? What are the cultural differences?
I first came to Russia in a very difficult period: tense economic and political situation, uncertainty, insecurity. Of course, all those things affected people. Previously, many thought that it had been better to live anywhere but not in Russia. Now things are different. Today people are more tolerant, open and friendly, they respect themselves and their country. This allows us to have an open, equal dialogue. I love it!
Well, about the mentality… (Thinking.) You know, I believe we have a lot in common. Despite lots of challenges, we always manage to stay strong and overcome all difficulties. I’m sure that Russians and Brazilians have common attitude towards life. Perhaps, there are no cultural barriers. Personally, I find it very easy and pleasant to live here. I'm sure that many Brazilians will agree with me.
Land of Aircraft Engineering and Light Industry
Could you tell us about Apex-Brasil? What is your business activity aimed at? How do you accomplish it?
Apex-Brasil was founded 13 years ago. Brazil is a country with a very strong and, unfortunately, quite closed economy. We must admit that Brazilian-made products rarely appear on the shelves of Russian shops. The share of export in the Brazilian economy is quite small. Apex-Brasil was formed in order to support the development of foreign trade of Brazil and the convergence of Brazilian business with the international one. Here in Russia (and the CIS) our main mission is to support exports, to create the conditions for the development of Brazilian businesses in Russia. This involves finding potential distributors, partners, investors including the development and maintenance of large-scale foreign economic and trade projects.
Your Representative Office generates investments in various economy sectors. Which are the most promising?
Brazil remains one of the major food producers in the world. Brazilian products will always be of interest to international trade. By the way, few people know that in addition to the traditional products — milk, meat and coffee - we also produce wine. Of course, we can't compete with Argentina or Chile — our climate is a little bit warmer than required for growing grapes. But still, there are several areas in the mountains, where this industry is developing.
Also, few people know that Brazil is an aircraft manufacturer. "Embraer" is the third company after "Boeing" and "Airbus" which has been producing aircrafts for about 50 years, including export. Of course, not in Russia — the competition is too strong, but in Europe and the United States people often fly on our aircrafts and do not even suspect that they are produced in Brazil.
Brazilian engineering is also well-developed. Of course, it is hard to compete with cheaper Asian goods - particularly Chinese ones - in the international market.
As for light industry, Brazil is famous for its high quality and beautiful shoes. By the way, 30% of "Econika" shoes are made in Brazil, as well as many products under the Calvin Klein brand.
Our task is to support collaboration of Russian and Brazilian businesses, invite Brazilians to visit Russia and Russians to Brazil, to meet and establish contacts.
Accounting and taxation involve some intricacies for foreign companies, says Mr. Americo, to perform all tasks correctly, according to the Russian legislation. It is also important to bring our Russian reporting in line with our parent company.
We sincerely believe that we were lucky to find 1C-WiseAdvice. In fact, we have a lot of experience working in Russia and have something to compare with. When our Brazilian colleagues from other companies share their experiences, we see that the quality of the services provided to us is immeasurably higher. We admire not only the adaptability of the processes, but also simple human compassion, the willingness of your specialists to answer our most urgent and sometimes unusual requests in a timely, polite and professional manner.
What are the Apex-Brasil projects you are most proud of?
In fact, we study the market all the time. Every year we see interesting projects. For example, nowadays the food manufacturing industry is rapidly developing in Russia. New Russian brands have appeared in supermarkets. Russian food production is increasing and, therefore, it requires more ingredients. So, we invited Russian manufacturers to the Brazilian market. Russian businessmen have agreed with our suppliers and began to buy ingredients for their production. This is a very interesting project — it offers new opportunities for business between our countries. Brazilian companies supply Russian manufacturers with high-quality raw materials and those, in turn, produce good-quality products.
During your speech at Roundtable ‘Expected future development of relationship with Latin America' you told a joke that Russia and Brazil are in love with each other and 'wedding arrangements' shall soon begin, too. What did you mean by 'wedding'? Has it already happened in your opinion?
Well, I was referring to a phrase taken from an interview with a Russian diplomat, who said that our countries looked like happy lovers who didn't see the faults of each other.
And the wedding... I think it can happen (laughs). The relations between Brazil and Russia have always been good, even at the time of the military dictatorship. I think the reason why the wedding has not taken place yet is because Russia and Brazil are very self-sufficient countries and, in terms of economy, are still independent from each other. It is good to be a partner of Brazil, but we can live without it, too! As soon as our relationship reaches the level at which it will be difficult to do without each other, we will be able to move on from just “love” to a more serious relationship – we will run our activities together.
Sport is never too much
Unfortunately, the Olympics in Rio were held affecting the Russians poorly due to notorious reasons. As 'a jealous bride' we wanted to ask you how the Olympics influenced the investment climate of your country?
I think that had a positive effect. The whole world was watching Brazil. Unfortunately, the Olympics started at the time when we had a lot of internal political, social and economic issues. Thus, we couldn’t use all the benefits of that wonderful opportunity. However, thanks to the Olympics, Brazil has attracted considerable investments into its infrastructure. We did many interesting projects, invited a lot of interesting guests. Today Brazil is the 8th economy in the world. It was high time to organize such an event. We deserve it. I’m an optimist. I’m sure that Russia will host the World Football Cup. It will definitely be successful! No doubt! Russia and Brazil are powerful countries. From time to time we should have the right to conduct such large-scale sporting events.
Did you visit Brazil during the Olympics?
No, unfortunately. I worked here, but we all watched it on TV. I prefer to watch sport. But, of course, I sometimes run or ride a bike.
'If you can't play football, go to University!' is this Brazilian saying true?
Yes, probably... As I said, Brazil is a country of contrasts: there are a lot of rich and - at the same time - lots of poor people. Fortunately, the number of the poor in recent times has decreased, but there is still a large part of the population, who is difficult to climb the social ladder. Football can speed up the process. It serves as a social lift for young people. You know, there are many examples when children from very poor families became the stars of world football. But you still need to study, for sure, even if you have athletic talents.
Glimpse of the Future
What are your plans for the future? Could you tell us about your most interesting projects?
I've been living in Russia for 6 years. It's interesting for me to follow its events, take an active part in life of both countries as well as share my experience and knowledge.
BRICS offers lots of great activities. I must admit that back in 2015 when Russia was the Chairman of the Association, all events here were perfectly organized. It's a challenge for us. We will continue studying the market, prepare new target projects that will be mutually beneficial to both countries. However, this task isn't easy. Entrepreneurs in Brazil and Russia are still quite reluctant to work with external partners. We need to break the ice and prove that we need each other. We can contribute to our economics not only locally but also globally. Brazil and Russia have unlimited potential for development, which needs to be used effectively.
We don't want to leave, and the snow outside the window makes us think about Christmas holidays. Saying goodbye in the lobby, we ask one more question.
Address: 121099, Moscow, 3rd Smolenskaya Square, office 9017
Phone: +7 (495) 967-7901
Mr. Americo, how do you celebrate the New Year? Are there any traditions in Brazil?
Oh, yes! (Smiles.) Traditionally, we celebrate Christmas because Brazil is one of the biggest Catholic countries in the world. Christmas is a very quiet and cozy family holiday. And, on the contrary, Brazilian people prefer to spend the New Year in a cheerful noisy company of friends, launching fireworks somewhere in the center of Rio de Janeiro… or Moscow, why not?