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Brazil's exports to Iraq have exploded in the last year and poultry is leading the charge.
In his sharp suit and fluent but accented Portuguese, he looks every bit the self-made immigrant entrepreneur. “We know what Iraq needs, and we know what Brazil can provide,” he said. “Brazil has many more products that could be included in the market.”
He says that could include trucks and construction materials, but for now, it’s largely chicken. Other major exports, according to Brazilian government reports, include beef and beef products, tractors, bulldozers and sugar. (Ah, and very minor exports include $1,139 in cotton dresses and $4,820 of “waffles and wafers.”)
The chamber is also trying to attract construction companies — of which Brazil has plenty — to bid on a new project to construct 2,000 houses in Iraq. It has also helped to attract visits by Iraqi officials, including last year from the ministers of planning and industry. Chaya said the Iraqis are routinely amazed at the variety and scale of industrial production they see in Brazil.
The chamber is located in a well-appointed office in the posh Jardins neighborhood, and the reception area is decorated with Brazilian and Iraq flags and portraits of the country’s presidents, Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva and Jalal Talabani. It is getting ready to inaugurate Iraq’s first permanent showroom for Brazilian products in Sulaimaniyah, Kurdistan, a major entry point for cargo arriving by air from Europe and elsewhere in the Middle East. It will be called “Made in Brazil.”
Another goal is to shift indirect imports to direct ones, improving efficiency. Historically, Brazilian products made their way into Iraq via Kuwait and other countries; this less efficient “triangular export” system accounted for $468 million in trade last year.
The chamber tracks these numbers since they are responsible for certifying that products are actually made in Brazil so they can enter Iraq — they once stopped a contraband shipment of eggs Jalal believes came from China.
Some Brazilians do have qualms about doing business with Iraq, but it’s not so much the business leaders as their families. “They’ll say to their wife, ‘I’m going to Iraq,’” said Chaya, “and the wives will respond ‘What are you talking about?’ It can cause a war in the home.”
Suggestion: have them nix the mention of Iraq, and say they’re headed overseas to visit a big chicken account.