Royal Dutch Business

By Arnout Nuijt

pvofiespThe biggest Dutch business mission ever organised descended on Brazil last week. Over 150 companies, fielding around 250 representatives, visited the country’s cities most relevant to Dutch business. The mission was led by the heir to the Dutch throne, His Royal Highness the Prince of Orange, and included several other officials. Among these were a brandnew Minister of Trade & Development and Secretary for Education, as well as the Prime-Minister of Aruba, one of the countries inside the Kingdom of The Netherlands.

The delegation consisted of representatives from several sectors of the Dutch economy, like higher eduaction and science, aviation technology, agribusiness, design and architecture, metallurgical industries and others and presented a clear break from the traditional message that the Dutch are good at ports and water management. This mission portrayed Holland correctly as having a knowledge based economy. Another novelty was the absence of a traditional line-up of CEO’s of the country’s biggest companies. Instead the delegation was dominated by SME’s, small and medium sized companies. Of course reps of some of the larger entreprises were present, but most of these are already well established in Brazil for decades. 

The itinerary of the mission was also interesting. The group did not just visit the Rio-Sao Paulo-Brasilia axis, but subgroups led by the Prince of Orange also visited Ribeirao Preto, Piracicaba and Sao Jose dos Campos, all upcoming cities in Sao Paulo State (see our article on Brazil’s next 10 hottest business cities).

The results of the mission were good and had been well prepared. A plethora of MoUs was signed by Dutch and Brazilian institutes on science, waste and biofuels. Delft Technical University and UniCamp set up a Brazilian institute called ‘BE-basic Hub’ (Biobased Ecologically Balanced Sustainable Industrial Chemistry) in Campinas. A Dutch windtunnel maker was able to prolong its cooperation with Embraer. The firm recently tested the model of Embraer’s new military tanker and transport plane, the KC-390. New Gol flights from Sao Paulo to Aruba (and on to Miami) were announced as well.

One of the biggest Dutch banks, ABN-AMRO, is back in Brazil. After losing its excellent position in the country with the sale of Banco Real, one the Brazil’s bigger banks, the Dutch are back – though modestly – with their acquisition of a small Rio-based bank called CR2. In Sao Paulo, the Prince of Orange inaugurated a brandnew office of the Netherlands Foreign Investment Agency or NFIA, that is to attract more Brazilian investment to the Netherlands. Though the NFIA was already active for some time in the country it has now established a permanent representation in Sao Paulo. In Rio de Janeiro, Petrobrás and the Dutch state credit insurance company Atradius signed an agreement worth 1 billion US dollars, that will give the Brazilian oil company a credit insurance for investing in Dutch off-shore companies.

The Brazilian inspection procedures of dairy products were defined as a trade barrier by Dutch exporters. Fortunately, the mission led to a concrete agreement in this field. Brazilian and Dutch counterparts made sure that the Brazilian inspection service will visit the Netherlands to inspect the Dutch dairy inspection service. If they value the Dutch service to be according to their standards, which is expected, there will be no more need to inspect all Dutch dairy companies that want to trade with Brazil individually.

Though the Dutch started their economic diplomacy with Brazil releatively late, they now seem to be making up for that. In any case the Dutch can bank on the strong Dutch-Brazilian community, which is especially present in Sao Paulo State.

Intriguingly, the Dutch were also keen on stressing their Latin and other ethnic connections during this mission. Moreover, the Prime-Minister of Aruba and delegates from Curacao and St Maarten, other countries withing the Kingdom of the Netherlands, can truly say they belong to Latin America. The biggest ambassador of the Netherlands in Rio may be Surinam-born soccer star and Botafogo hero Clarence Seedorf.

This mission clearly set the tone in Dutch economic diplomacy in general and it may have set the tone for more European diplomacy with Brazil as well.

November 26th, 2012. All rights reserved by Brazil Weekly/Rotterdam Week.

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