Ambassador Wanja Nobrega

Diplomat will be the new Brazilian Ambassador to Bangladesh.

Por Cristiana Moretzsohn

Ambassador Wanja Nobrega

Having a long international career as a diplomat, and being at the Consulate General of Brazil in Toronto for the last six years, Minister Wanja Nobrega shined in the Brazilian Trade Promotion and Investment Sector (SECOM), strengthening the commercial ties between Brazil and Canada even more and soon she will be the new Brazilian Ambassador to Bangladesh.

 You have been nominated by President Dilma Rousseff to be the new Ambassador of Brazil in Bangladesh, when will you assume the post?
Nobrega: The designation process to take over as head of an Embassy is long and consists of several steps. The first, of course, is the choice of its ambassadors by the President of Brazil, then the recipient country should express agreement to receive the ambassador, the so called “agrément”, phase that I have already passed, i.e. the Government of Bangladesh expressed agreement that I officially represent the Brazilian government with that country. Now the next step, required by the Federal Constitution, is to have my name submitted for approval by the Federal Senate. I’m waiting for the Senate to summon me for the interview by the members of the Foreign Relations Committee, and if they approve my nomination, then it will be ratified by the National Congress. After completing these steps, I will be officially removed from Toronto to Dhaka. My departure is depending on this process to be fulfilled, which should take place over the coming months. I believe that, before the end of 2012, I will have assumed my new diplomatic role as ambassador of Brazil in Bangladesh.

 Bangladesh is the ninth most populous country in the world, a parliamentary democracy. What do you believe to be your greatest professional challenge in the country?
Nobrega: Brazil acknowledged the independence of Bangladesh in 1971 and in 1974 it opened its embassy in Dhaka. However, in the mid-1990s, due to budgetary difficulties, it disabled its representation in that country, as well as several others. Two years ago it reopened the Embassy in Dhaka. In this context of diplomatic presence resumption, the relations tend to tighten, especially because it is of great importance that it is the first Embassy of a Latin American country in Bangladesh. Our constant presence will certainly contribute to the political rapprochement between the two countries.

Brazil and Bangladesh have been going through a very interesting political, economic and somewhat coincidental moment. Brazil, a presidential republic, has President Dilma Rousseff, as the first female Head of State and Government; Bangladesh, a parliamentary republic with a Muslim majority, also has a woman as Head of Government, the Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina Wajed.

On the economic side, Brazil was considered as a promising emerging country by the financial institution Goldman Sachs in 2003, and today stands up on the international scene; in 2010, the same financial group Goldman Sachs analyzed the “11 new emerging countries”, among them Bangladesh , which is already exporting over $15 billion in apparel and textiles.

The challenges that always exist when starting a new mission will be, at first, to compose and train a new team, and then detect the best opportunities for deepening our relations and provide a good progress to projects of mutual interest.

 And what is your biggest personal challenge in a country that is so different from Canada?
Nobrega: In personal terms, the distance and time difference will definitely bring on adjustments and natural adaptations, especially considering that I intend to maintain frequent contact with Canada, particularly in Toronto where I will leave many friends and my daughter Nina, who is studying at the University of Toronto.

There are several differences between Canada and Bangladesh, from country size and population, in addition to culture, language, religion and way of life. But it is precisely this diversity that fascinates me as a diplomat: the prospect of being able to visit and live in such different but also enriching places.

What’s the relationship between Brazil and Bangladesh like?
Nobrega: Thanks to the reopening of the embassies in Dhaka and in Brasilia, Brazil and Bangladesh begin, as I said, a new and promising phase of diplomatic and commercial relations, plus cooperation at various levels. In my view, there is much to be explored, from the trade promotion area (we reached more than $ 1 billion in trade volume in 2001, an already promising volume) to bilateral cooperation both technical (e.g. Bangladesh has much interest in receiving agricultural cooperation from Embrapa to develop the planting of new beans) and also cooperation in the social area. On the Bengali side, one of the best examples in this field is the creation of the Bengali system of micro-credit to the poorest, a project that besides having been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2006, has earned the interest of the Brazilian Government in deepening the knowledge of this system, and aroused the curiosity of university students seeking internship at the Grameen Bank, in Dhaka, to better understand the applicability and adaptability to the Brazilian financial system. Moreover, Bangladesh is interested in cooperation to eventually establish social programs like Bolsa Familia, Fome Zero, My Home/ My Life, to name a few.

Besides bilateral relationship being very cordial, there is a great potential for diplomatic cooperation in multilateral forums, especially in the areas of environment, an important topic for both Brazil and Bangladesh. Another field of mutual interest is cooperation and training to participate in the International Peace Forces, organized by the United Nations. Currently, Bangladesh is the country with the largest contingent of Peace Forces.

 Ambassador, you professionally shined in Toronto during the six years as head of the Trade Promotion Sector. How do you assess your passage through Canada?
Nobrega: Working in the Consulate General of Brazil in Toronto and heading the Brazilian Trade Promotion and Investment Sector (SECOM) in the last six years was a privilege and an honour. When I arrived in 2006, SECOM in Toronto was responsible for promoting trade and investment in Brazil throughout Canada. So, I had the opportunity to travel from east to west, from north to south in Canada, which enabled me to take a broad view of this country. The Canada-Brazil bilateral trade was modest and with deficit for Brazil, just about exceeding US$2 billion. In 2011, the bilateral trade balance reached over US$ 6.6 billion, and the level of bilateral investment today reaches more than $20 billion. Among several works that I developed in Canada, some are noteworthy, like having started the Brazilian participation in SIAL food fair, held in Montreal and Toronto, which has contributed to solidify various Brazilian business segments especially in the area of food and beverages (wine and cachaça).

Besides that, I was invited to many conferences in several cities and institutions, both academic and financial. I also highlight the fact that I was able to develop and talk about a subject that is very important to me, the “Female Entrepreneurship” a challenging theme. These are just a few examples, among many others.

After six years in Toronto, the most rewarding is to see in the daily routine that there is a new awareness by the Canadian people towards Brazil. Any stereotypes were replaced by a genuine desire to know the Brazilian reality, culture and language. Consequently, the Brazilian community in Ontario has been awarded with a greater number of cultural, political and commercial opportunities that cause a fuzzy feeling of high self-esteem. Relations between Brazil and Canada moved to a higher stage, up to a sustainable relationship.

Who will replace you?
Nobrega: Two new diplomats just arrived to compose the team of our Consul General, Ambassador Afonso Cardoso: Counselor Luis Antonio Borders Silos and Secretary Angelica Ambrosini. Luis Antonio will lead SECOM and Angelica, the consular section.

Regarding teamwork – and I’m very aware of this – any work that I have succeeded in Toronto, would not have been possible without the exquisite and exemplary leadership of Ambassador Afonso Cardoso, all the support, love and encouragement received from Solange Escosteguy Cardoso, and also by the qualified and professional SECOM staff (Priscilla Hirai, Angela Rodrigues, Eduardo Rodrigues and Adriana Gaertner), besides the vice consuls and consular officers, always attentive and dedicated. To all of them I am very grateful for the professionalism and cordiality that they have always extended to me.

 Canada and Brazil are increasingly becoming partners in the commercial area, do you have any tips for Brazilians who think of investing here?
Nobrega: Canada is a country with great potential, but also great challenges. Brazilians should seek creative and innovative niches, enjoy the whole arsenal of tools available in the websites, and especially “do their homework”, i.e. not trying to “short cut”, but follow the rules, follow the labeling rules, for example, and persist in their goals. And always keep in mind that the Brazilian consulates, as well as our embassy in Ottawa, have available sectors and staff to assist everyone in marketing insertion.

 During these years in Toronto your family has been through several changes. Your two daughters entered the University, and your husband, Minister Aldemo Garcia, left the post of Deputy Consul in Toronto to head the international advisory department of the Ministry of Communications in Brasilia and now you are also departing to the other corner of the world. How do you deal with homesickness?
Nobrega: In fact, in terms of personal life and family in these past 6 years I also witnessed significant developments, changes, achievements, but also painful losses. My daughters, Nina and Alice, arrived here in their early teens, and today they are both college students. One is studying International Relations, at the University of Toronto, and the second one is in South Carolina, USA, where she received a scholarship to play tennis and study at Winthrop; Aldemo accepted an important invitation to return to Brasilia and assume a post of great responsibility after dedicating 5 years to the Brazilian community. We lost in the meantime, my mother Wanice and my father-in-law Aldemo. Now, each family member will follow its current course, each one in a different city and country, but all with the assurance that we will remain as a family, supporting and loving each other. And, of course, the internet, especially Skype, will help us keep the communication chain and ease the sense of distance.

 What message do you leave to our readers in Canada who are also far from their families?
Nobrega: I repeat what the Lebanese poet Gibran Khalil Gibran has said:

“Nostalgia is a way of encounter.”