Business between Brazil and Syria has shrunk since the start of a popular uprising against President Bashar al-Assad last year. In addition to the internal crisis and violence that have engulfed the country, economic sanctions by Western and Arab countries have affected bank lending, weakening the Syrian economy and the country’s trade relations.
The Brazilian Foreign Ministry announced, “Due to the atypical situation in Syria, there has been a general downturn in the country, with impacts on the Syrian trade with all regions of the globe.” According to Brazilian diplomats, the country’s economic situation has caused a noticeable decrease in the import of Brazilian products there.
In 2010, Brazil exported $547 million to Syria, while, in 2011, exports totaled only $366 million. Top export products included coffee, soybeans, and sugar. Brazilian imports were $47 million in 2010 and $45 million in 2011. The Brazil-Syria trade volume reached $500 million in 2010 and dropped to $322 million in 2011.
Michel Alaby, President of the Arab-Brazilian Chamber of Commerce, said Brazilian exports to the Arab country were affected by declining demand among Syrian businessmen. According to him, even with the violence and crisis in Syria, Brazilian products find ways to enter the country indirectly. “From experience, some Brazilian companies have sold to Lebanon, and from there, follow the goods to Syria,” said Alaby.
He explained that the demand for raw materials and commodities, the main products exported by Brazil, remains high, but with the shortage of bank credit and the blockade imposed with sanctions by the United States and European countries, some companies use Chinese, Lebanese, or Russian banks to operate financially.
Regarding Brazil, the president of the Chamber of Commerce said the business environment has also changed considerably because of the sanctions. Brazil has been changing its tone against the Syrian government, declaring a wish that the regime put an end to violence and repression in the country.