Brazilian-Norwegian Chamber of Commerce – The first 10 years
2002 – Constitution of the Chamber
On September 10th 2002 the Brazilian ambassador to Norway, HE Luiz Antonio Jardim Gagliardi, sent an invitation to around 40 Norwegian companies and individuals to assist in the constitutional meeting of a Brazilian-Norwegian Chamber of Commerce (BNCC). The idea of such an association was most likely based on the success of the Norwegian-Brazilian Chamber of Commerce (NBCC) established in Rio de Janeiro in 1995.
The constitutional meeting was held on October 8th, presided over by the ambassador, assisted by Harald Martinsen, then Vice President of NBCC in Rio. Of the 40 companies and persons invited, 23 were present. Some 5 additional persons appeared, so officially 28 persons assisted in the constitution of BNCC. Of those 28, 8 are still members of the chamber. The rest have either not succeeded in their business ventures in Brazil or lost interest. The initial enthusiasm for Brazil was often personal and once that person changed position within the company or left the company, the member company lost interest in Brazil and BNCC.
The initial Articles of Association were inspired by the by-laws of NBCC in Rio and The Brazilian Chamber of Commerce in UK. The constitutional meeting approved the draft and decided that the establishment of the chamber should be officially announced at a reception on 15th November same year – Dia da change from the initial ones is an amendment from 2007, permitting the re-election of the chamber Republica. You will find the Articles of Association – or Statutes – published on our website. The only president indefinitely. The first Board elected had 12 members. Of these original 12, 6 are still board.
The initial objective of BNCC was “to promote the development of commercial relationships between Brazil and Norway”. With some slight changes the objective today remains the same. To supplement the objective, following the launch of the official Norwegian Brazil strategy, the Board of BNCC in 2011 formulated a Vision statement: “BNCC shall be recognized by Norwegian authorities and the business communities in Brazil and Norway as the preferred facilitator for business activities between Brazil and Norway”.members – representatives of the Brazilian Embassy, STATOIL, HYDRO, DNB, and Celma Hellebust and Terje Staalstrøm, then the representative of DNV.
The first years of BNCC
The first years the membership fluctuated between 55 and 65 – companies and individuals. Today, we have passed 100 members. This reflects the increased attention Brazil has received through Norwegian companies setting up business in Brazil, but also the increased number of Brazilian professionals in Norway and Brazilian firms wanting to offer their services to the Norwegian business community. The growth from around 60 to 100 members was due to various factors, primarily President Lula’s visit to Norway in 2007, the announcement of the pre-salt discoveries late 2007/early 2008 and the Norwegian government’s development of a Brazil strategy in 2010/2011. Today, we have reached a level which the BNCC present organization still can handle, but further growth will require some strategic choices for the chamber’s modus operandi.
The first year of the chamber – 2002-2003 – was a typical start-up year. BNCC was registered as an Association in Enhetsregisteret (Commercial Registry), bank account and accounting procedures established, logo designed – and later registered as a trademark – promotional flyer produced, website set up and cooperation with Oslo Chamber of Commerce started.
2003 saw 4 membership meetings introducing topics which still today are the most appreciated ones in our meetings – economic and political developments in Brazil and the experience of Norwegian companies in setting up business in Brazil, the first one being Norske Skog. A reception at the residence of Ambassador Cesar de Faria Domigues Moreira at the end-of-the year was a success, a networking event which BNCC in cooperation with the embassy has repeated almost every year.
In October 2003 the HM King Harald on a State Visit to Brazil headed a trade delegation of more than 140 people to Brazil. 8 BNCC board members participated and both BNCC and NBCC did profile themselves successfully, with NBCC being responsible for the business part of the official program.
2004 followed the pattern of 2003. Improvements were made to the website. Links to Radiobras’ newscasts in English and regular reports from BOVESPA and DNB were added to increase the information value of the site. Also relations with NBCC in Rio were strengthened and information exchange became more regular. The meetings reflected the interest of the members, with both STATOIL relating their experience and Innovation Norway (previously the Export Council) presenting their new organization and their support services to the industry.
Growing beyond Oslo
In 2004, BNCC for the first time ventured outside Oslo by participating at the ONS conference in Stavanger. The links then established with the chambers of commerce in Stavanger – and later Bergen – have given BNCC a wide recognition throughout the Norwegian business community.
2005 saw 5 membership meetings. Topics ranged from Friele sharing their story of 100 years in Brazilian coffee trade through Brazilian eco-friendly furniture designs to Petrobras’ fleet expansion and investment opportunities in Espirito Santo. Requests for supporting cultural- and sports activities appeared, but the
In 2006 BNCC did however grant its first sponsorship. A group of students in International Business received financial support for a field trip to Brazil to prepare a report on cultural differences in business between Brazil and Norway. Similar sponsorships have later been awarded by BNCC and the Board considers this to be a way to increase enthusiasm for Brazil among future Norwegian business leaders.Board did not see this as part of the BNCC objectives.
In 2006 the image of Brazil in the Norwegian mind was hurt by news in media of shady investment schemes in Brazilian real estate, in particular vacation homes in the North-East. To counter this, BNCC organized a meeting on the subject with selected Norwegian real estate developers as speakers. This clarified a series of misunderstandings.
At this time the Board expressed concern for the apparent waning of interest in Brazil and the chamber. New inspiration was needed and the arrival in 2007 of Ambassador Sergio Moreira Lima and the visit of President Lula da Silva to Norway in September was just the inspirations we needed.
The visit of President Lula da Silva
The highlight of 2007 was without doubt the business seminar “A Meeting of Energy Giants”, the largest ever hosted by BNCC. 250 guests assisted the seminar with President Lula da Silva and 2 Brazilian and 1 Norwegian Minister present. With all key players in the Norwegian-Brazilian business community represented by their Presidents or CEOs, the seminar was a huge success. To the chamber this was a profiling event of great importance.
Later, in October, BNCC cooperated with Oslo Chamber of Commerce in hosting a seminar in Oslo for their members and with Bergens Næringsråd on a seminar at NHH in Bergen for International Business students.
2007 was also the year when Social Responsibility was put on the chamber agenda. In February Minister Erik Solheim shared his thoughts with the members and asked for business community cooperation. “Dream, Learn,Work”, a project to provide teenagers in a poor area in Rio opportunities in schooling and vocational training is supported by Norwegian companies located in Rio, mainly in the maritime field, and the chambers of commerce in Rio and Oslo. A grant of NOK 900.000 to raise a school building was given by the Norwegian Foreign Ministry; a grant also given the following years. A first workshop on Corporate Social Responsibility, organized by NHO and their Brazilian counterpart CNI and moderated by BNCC President, took place in Rio in November. On this occasion experiences where shared between Brazilian and Norwegian industry. This workshop laid the foundation for cooperation between NHO and CNI which still is active and is benefitting the business community.
2008 benefitted from the surge in interest we saw in 2007. The membership increased and BNCC was invited to be a speaker and to co-host events both in Oslo, Bergen and Stavanger. In Oslo Banco Itau was a speaker at BNCC in February. In June in Stavanger we saw the opening of the Honorary Brazilian Consulate in that region with Petrobras as a guest speaker. In October the Brazilian Tax and Custom Office, a department of the Ministry of Finance in Brasilia, gave a seminar on import regulations, a challenging area to many of our members.
The Norwegian Prime Minister visited Brazil in September with BNCC members participating in the trade delegation to Rio Oil&Gas and in the official program.
In November BNCC organized a seminar on biofuel. Brazil’s leading bio ethanol producer, COSAN, as well as the only Norwegian player in this industry, UMOE BioEnergy, presented the industry. The environmental effect of bio ethanol from sugarcane as compared to bio ethanol from corn was a key issue, well explained by COSAN and an expert from University of São Paulo.
2009 saw new topics on the agenda of the BNCC meetings – wine tasting to promote Brazilian wines to importers and consumers, co-hosting a Brazilian seminar on aquaculture at the AquaNor conference in Trondheim, discussing R&D cooperation between Norway and Brazil at the opening of the Brazilian Honorary Consulate in the same city. There was also a meeting on the large pre-salt discoveries in Brazil with the Brazilian lawyer Luiz Antonio Lemos discussing the possible consequences of the proposed new legislation for these offshore discoveries. The attendance at that meeting was high and signaled clearly that Norwegian service- and equipment suppliers had great expectations for future business.
2010 was a very active year for BNCC. The chamber organized events in Oslo and co-hosted events in Stavanger and Bergen.
The meetings in 2010 ranged from Deputy Minister Barth Eide talking on political and military relations between Brazil and Norway to a well attended seminar on the complex Brazilian tax system, organized in cooperation with our member PWC with visiting tax specialists from Brazil. A brochure “Forretningsmuligheter I Brasil” was produced and a presentation of the chamber in Portuguese was published in the magazine “Norway Exports”. A delegation from the Port Authorities in Brazil visited Norway and BNCC had the opportunity to express the industry’s concerns regarding lacking efficiency and capacity in port logistics.
Launching Norway’s Brazil Strategy
The most important event in 2010 was however the launch in June of the Norwegian government’s initiative to develop an official Norwegian strategy for Brazil. BNCC early in the process submitted their views on the content and the process itself. We are pleased to see that the process chosen and the final product to a large extent reflect our views. Members of the chamber were deeply involved in the strategy development process through participation in the Reference Group established, in discussions in Theme Meetings – one of which was chaired by the BNCC president – and in one-to-one meetings with ministerial officials drafting the strategy document.
During Rio Oil & Gas in September board members of the chambers in Rio and Oslo for the first time met to discuss common issues.
As 2010 was an election year in Brazil, the chamber in November together with UiO organized a meeting where an expert on Latin-American politics from the University of Oxford gave his views on what business could expect from the new government in Brazil. At the same time, the BNCC president was interviewed on Norwegian television on the expected effect on business of the Brazilian presidential elections.
The milestone event in 2011 was the official launch in March of the Norwegian Brazil Strategy. 4 Norwegian Ministers were present to promote the strategy and the president of BNCC spoke on the importance on the coming implementation process. The strategy was the topic at the BNCC AGM that year, with the government’s project manager giving the members of the chamber an overview of the strategy and complementing BNCC for their contribution on behalf of the business community.
In January the Brazilian Honorary Consulate in Trondheim was opened and BNCC met with the local business community, academia and research institutions with R&D and student exchange with Brazil on the agenda.
In February, headed by the Norwegian Minister for Trade and Industry, an official Norwegian Trade Mission to Brazil with more than 140 Norwegian business people, met with Brazilian industry organizations such as BNDES, CNI and Apex, as well as private business representatives. BNCC board and members were well represented. The BNCC president participated both in Rio and São Paulo, meeting for the first time the Norwegian chamber of commerce in São Paulo.
NORSHIPPING in May was an important profiling event for BNCC. The BNCC message was that the chamber is a network for Norwegian and Brazilian businesses. Our booth in the entrance hall attracted many visitors, both Brazilian and Norwegian ones. Petrobras’ President Sergio Gabrielli and Transpetro’s Sergio Machado were among the guests enjoying live Brazilian music with Brazilian coffee courtesy of Friele. A publication entitled “Brazil – the future has arrived” was distributed to inform visitors about the opportunities in Brazil and how the chamber could assist new entrants to the market.
2011 saw the departure of Ambassador Sergio Moreira Lima and the arrival of Ambassador Carlos Henrique Cardim, who regrettably only stayed a short while.
In the autumn, the chamber arranged or spoke at events both in Oslo, Bergen and Trondheim. In Oslo presentations were made of “Virkemiddelapparatet” provided through Innovation Norway,INTSOK and APEX. In Trondheim at NTNU during Marintekniske Dager offshore Brazil was the theme. In Bergen the importance of industry R&D was the topic at the NorLARNet conference at UiB.
In October a luncheon hosted for the Brazilian Deputy Minister of Mines and Energy was an opportunity for selected members to discuss their plans with a high-ranking Brazilian politician.
Strengthening ties to Chambers in Rio and São Paulo
Finally, in December in Rio board members of the 3 Norwegian-Brazilian chambers of commerce for the first time met. While so far Rio has received most attention from Norwegian business, São Paulo as the dominating economic center in Brazil, is becoming more interesting to Norwegian business outside the oil& gas sector. Strengthening the ties between the 3 chambers is therefore seen as important. Together we have a better possibility of influencing the frame conditions for Norwegian-Brazilian business relations both in Norway and Brazil.
This year, 2012, has so far seen Aker Solutions sharing their experiences with the BNCC members and members of Oslo Chambers of Commerce being advised on how to do business in Brazil. At both ONS in Stavanger in August and Rio Oil& Gas in September, BNCC members were active. In Rio the 2nd meeting of board members of the 3 Norwegian chambers of commerce was held to discuss the practical implementation of Norway’s Brazil strategy. Later this autumn, the chamber will speak at the Norwegian Risk Forum, where political and economic risk in Brazil is the topic. Recently, initiatives are taken to strengthen industry R&D cooperation with Brazil to assist in building local competence in a win-win situation both for Brazil and Norway.
As an illustration of the increased interest in Brazil for Norway, the magazine “Isto é”, with a circulation of more than 1.000.000, did in March this year publish a special report on Norwegian business in Brazil. The editorial part of the report was introduced by the president of BNCC
Throughout these 10 years the cooperation with The Brazilian embassy in Oslo, with Norwegian officials and organizations like Innovation Norway, NHO and INTSOK has been important to our success. We would in particular like to thank the Brazilian ambassadors and their staff at the embassy for the moral and practical support given the chamber. Following a year with Minister Counselor Paulo Guimaraes efficiently providing this support, the recent arrival of Ambassador Flavio Helmold Macieira bodes well for the future of BNCC.
To conclude – with the gracious support of the Norwegian business community and voluntary help from dedicated people throughout these 10 years, BNCC has grown to become what the founders wanted – “a promoter of the development of commercial relationships between Brazil and Norway”.