World Cup showcases chances in Brazil

World Cup showcases chances in Brazil
A Venezuelan tourist takes pictures in front of the Maracana stadium decorated for the upcoming FIFA World Cup, in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

Rio de Janeiro's majestic setting will be in the spotlight as the World Cup kicks off in Brazil on June 12, but the ultimate goal in hosting the event is to show that the country's many attractions go beyond fun and sun, for visitors and investors alike.

"Obviously, we are taking advantage of the event to promote something beyond football," said Valdemar Leao, Brazilian ambassador to China.

"Brazil is a country with diverse culture, food and beautiful scenery. The northwest has more people of indigenous extraction, while the east coast has more of a cultural mixture, including those of African, indigenous and European descents. I think people visiting Brazil will be completely immersed with that unique, rich diversity."

Twelve cities will host matches, giving the world a glimpse of the country's spectacular scenery and the energy of its urban areas as the country enjoys the economic upturn of recent years, the ambassador said.

But after the cheering and flag-waving have ceased, and after the stadiums are emptied, the enduring legacy of the event will be economic, with investment in infrastructure, notably public transport, railways and airports, he said.

"We are talking about a $400 billion market here, and we hope Chinese companies, especially railway construction firms, can take an active part in this," he said, praising China's development of its railway network and high-speed trains.

Transport is a huge issue in a country of continental dimensions and ensuring smooth traffic flow in cities such as San Paulo and Rio de Janeiro will be a priority.

In September, China and Brazil's Metro Barra signed a contract that will see China provide 90 subway trains to Brazil. Rio de Janeiro has already purchased a number of trains that are operating in the city's subway.

The ambassador said that as the demand for urban transportation networks increases, there are great investment opportunities for Chinese companies.

"The bidding process for a number of railways is likely to take place in the next couple of months," he said. "There will be competition, but I think Chinese companies are very competitive, especially with their strength in productivity."

Wang Youming, director of the Department for Developing Countries Studies at China Institute of International Studies, added that other avenues for economic cooperation exist in the financial market.

Last year, China and Brazil signed an agreement to swap up to $30 billion in their currencies to better weather the global financial crisis.

"For now, there seems to be no limit to the potential for further cooperation between the two countries, despite some trade friction and conflicts, which are totally normal," Wang said.

China, as an investor, is a latecomer to Brazil, but economic ties have blossomed over the last decade.

"Each country has what the other lacks," Wang said, referring to the fact that the rapid growth in commodity demand in China means the two fast-growing emerging market economies are seeking greater opportunities together.

Bilateral trade has increased about 20-fold to more than $50 billion annually over the past 10 years and since 2009 China has overtaken the US to become Brazil's most important trading partner.

Trade in Brazil, the ambassador said, has evolved from mining, raw materials, oil and energy, to the manufacturing sector and is set to diversify again.

"At the moment, the only major high-tech export of ours to China is the Embraer aircraft, and its model ERJ-190 is selling very well in China. Apart from that, there is a narrow range of manufactured goods, but we should diversify," he said.

But all eyes, at the moment, are on the tournament, and the ambassador hopes President Xi Jinping, a big football fan, will confirm his attendance so that he can accompany the Chinese leader to the World Cup final and see Brazil lift the trophy for the first time on home soil.

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