SAO PAULO (Reuters) - The Chinese government is looking to boost its presence in the Brazilian food processing sector and reach agreements on joint food safety controls that would allow for long-term supply deals between the countries, a Chinese official said on Wednesday.
Yang Wanming, who took over as China’s ambassador to Brazil roughly two months ago, said in a presentation to businessmen and Sao Paulo state government officials that the Asian nation is also looking into opportunities in the country’s infrastructure projects and oil refining sector.
“The two countries should boost trade flows, work to liberalize and facilitate trade, expand two-way access to markets,” Yang said in the presentation, through a translator.
“The agricultural sector is an important part of our trade cooperation. China would like to enlarge that cooperation toward processing of agricultural products and intensify cooperation in food safety controls with the aim to build a long-term partnership, where both countries would win,” he said.
Some Brazilian food processors were bruised by a large food safety probe started in 2017 that investigated the relationship between meatpackers, agriculture ministry officials and laboratories with a mandate to certify the safety of meat products.
The probe, which is still ongoing, alleged that some firms bribed inspectors to keep processing plants running, issue international health certificates, and allow the sale of products in violation of food safety standards.
China has been Brazil’s largest trade partner since 2009, a relationship that reached almost $100 billion last year.
There were signs of possible obstacles to expanding relations during last year’s presidential campaign in Brazil, when right-wing candidate Jair Bolsonaro, who won the election, criticized recent acquisitions of Brazilian assets by Chinese companies.
Yang said he has spoken with several ministers in the new administration since he arrived in Brasilia earlier this year, and was well-received.
“All of them expressed interest in boosting our relation. The President himself expressed his will to deepen our relationship, particularly in trade,” the ambassador said.
He did not provide details of China’s plans in food processing or oil refining.
Chinese company CNODC, a subsidiary of China’s National Petroleum Corporation (CNPC), signed an agreement with Brazil’s Petrobras last year to partner on building the Comperj refining complex in Rio de Janeiro.
Reporting by Marcelo Teixeira; Editing by Bill Berkrot