Brazilia Time Zone UTC-03:00
Capital City Brasília
Currency Brazilian real
National Day 7th September
BRAZIL’S NEW AMBASSADOR Fred Arruda returns to London just two years after he completed his last posting here, as head of the Brazilian Mission to the International Organisations based in London. “As the world’s largest coffee producer and one of the largest sugar producers, the international organisations in London are very important to Brazil,” he says. “Furthermore, our interest in the IMO, IMSO, and the Whaling Convention is clear: we have a large coast and are committed to preserving the marine environment. Only last year, we created two marine reserves around the islands of São Pedro e São Paulo and Trindade e Martim Vaz, which are the size of France and Germany combined. The agenda of all international organisations in London reflect key priorities of Brazil. “
His familiarity with the capital has meant Mr Arruda has been able to hit the ground running since his arrival last October with his wife, Lenice. They are fortunate to have their son and daughter-in-law already living here. In his downtime, the Ambassador enjoys playing chess and reading. “I recently read The River of Doubtby Candice Millard, about former US president Theodore Roosevelt’s journey in the Amazon with one of the world’s greatest travellers, Cândido Rondon. It is a thrilling historical account.”
Mr Arruda’s father was in the military, and moving around the country a lot as a family provided him with “a comprehensive view of Brazil – a large country with huge regional disparities and an immense potential.”
Joining the Foreign Service in 1980, Mr Arruda’s career spans almost 40 years. His first assignment was to be in charge of agricultural commodities at headquarters, “a huge responsibility for a young diplomat, as they were among our main export products.” His first two experiences abroad took him to Montevideo and Brazil’s Mission to the Organisation of American States, in Washington DC. While posted to the Brazilian Mission in Geneva (1993-95), he participated in the Uruguay Round of multilateral trade negotiations.
Throughout his career, Ambassador Arruda has been involved in the Brazilian Congress, serving as an advisor for the Chamber of Deputies (2009-10) and the Federal Senate (1997-2001). As part of his portfolio, he received many foreign dignitaries, escorting them inside the Congress building. He memorably recalls “thirty unforgettable seconds with Nelson Mandela. It gave me an opportunity to exchange a few words with the guest – and Nelson Mandela was really special. He was truly a magnetic person. After I retire, maybe I’ll write a book called Thirty seconds with foreign leadersto tell these stories,” he quips.
In 2009, Mr Arruda was invited to work as an assistant to the then President of the House of Representatives, Michel Temer, who went on to become President. Serving as his Chief Diplomatic Advisor (2016-18) provided him with “a rich perspective of what is really sensitive to a Head of State.” He sadly recalls the day when a plane disaster in Colombia killed a Brazilian football team from the city of Chapecó. “As the President’s diplomatic advisor, this is the kind of news one never wishes to convey. It was a truly emotional moment, mainly because of the irreparable loss we felt as a country, but also for the friendship and solidarity we received from Colombia and many other countries.”
As Ambassador in the UK, he notes “We have every reason to work closely together. Brazil and the UK are solid democracies and are among the largest economies in the world. Yet, if we look at trade flows, we can easily conclude we are below what one can expect from countries like ours. The UK is only our sixth partner in Europe and fourteenth worldwide. Clearly, we need to do more – and we have every reason to be optimistic. On the one hand, we are large economies with shared values, which suggests an even deeper partnership in the long term. On the other hand, the UK is pursuing the path of a Global Britain and Brazil is opening up its economy, pointing to a coincidence of interests in the short and medium terms.”
What does Mr Arruda think is Brazil’s greatest diplomatic challenge? “Brazil has been able to consolidate its borders through peaceful means with its ten neighbours – which is quite an achievement. That also meant that we can concentrate on making the country prosper. In the long term, we have the challenge of helping our economic development by improving trade and attracting foreign investment. This is one of our main goals as Brazilian representatives abroad.”
With Brexit negotiations still very uncertain at the time of the interview, the Ambassador comments, “One thing is for sure: Brazil and the UK are converging in a movement towards new partnerships, towards a renewed openness to the world. We should seize this moment to deepen our ties even further.”