As 2018 drew to a close, so too did Ambassador Manual Innocencio de Lacerda Santos Júnior’s post to Australia. The ABCC recently caught up with Ambassador Santos to ask about his Australian experience and what’s ahead for the future.
1. When did your Australian post commence and where had you been based prior to coming to Australia?
I arrived in Canberra on January 6th, 2016, and presented my Credentials to the Governor General on February 24th of the same year. I was posted before as Ambassador to São Tomé and Príncipe (2006-2009) and to Indonesia (2009-2011), and as Consul General in Faro, Portugal (2011-2015).
In my diplomatic carrier, which I started in 1974, I have been posted in Bonn, Prague, Baghdad, Bonn again, and Toronto.
2. What were the highlights of your Australian post?
Among the many important developments for the bilateral relationship during my tenure in Canberra, I would certainly include:
the two visits of the Governor-General to Brazil, in 2016, for the Olympics and the Paralympics in Rio de Janeiro;
the visits of different ministers from both sides, including the visit of the Brazilian Minister for Tourism and the visits of the Australian Ministers for Trade and for Agriculture; and
In 2017, a mission to Brazil from the Australian Parliament.
At a more technical level, I should also mention missions to Australia carried out by experts from our Ministries for Agriculture, to learn more about the Australian legislation on pesticides, and for Heath, to exchange experiences in the area of E-health, among others.
I would especially like to highlight the signing of the bilateral agreement on cooperation in the areas of Science, Technology and Innovation, which opens important avenues to strengthen even more the important links we already have in this area.
Finally, I cannot leave without mention the significant increase in the bilateral investment and trade flows. During my time in Canberra, Brazil has become the main Australian trade partner in Latin America.
3. What industry sectors were a particular focus in the bilateral relationship during your time here?
Among others, I would like to underscore the strong focus given to the education sector. Brazil is the eighth country of origin of foreign students in Australia, with more than 30 thousand enrolments per year. I worked hard to ensure that our respective institutions, especially our universities, can work together not only for sending students to each other but also to develop joint research and development projects. The more than 100 agreements already in place between our universities constitute an incredible asset that we need to cultivate.
4. What industry sectors hold particular promise over the coming years for the Australia-Brazil relationship?
It follows naturally from what I said before that the sectors of education, science and technology would continue to be some of the most promising for the continuous deepening of the Brazil-Australia relationship. I believe is also important to build on the initiatives already developed in the fields of agriculture and health, where we have a lot to learn from each other. Equally, the implementation of the MoU on cooperation in the field water management, signed between the agencies of our two countries in the first semester of 2018 holds significant promise.
5. How is the new Bolsonaro government likely to affect the Australia-Brazil relationship?
I am convinced that the new Government will work further towards the full exploration of the enormous potential of cooperation between our two countries. We must not forget that Captain Arthur Phillip spoke Portuguese fluently, having sailed with the Portuguese Royal Navy for many years. Because of his close friendship with the Portuguese Vice-Roy in Rio de Janeiro, in 1788, the officers and crew of the First Fleet were allowed to disembark and mingled with the locals in Rio for a month. When they sailed on, they filled their boats with what they thought was rum, but was actually cachaça, our sugarcane distillate. Australia´s founding was toasted with cachaça – that is a VERY strong link…
6. What will you miss about Australia?
Now, that is a very difficult question… Just about everything: the excellent wine, the fantastic food (kangaroo steaks are right up at the top), the informality and keen sense of humour of the Australians, which is very similar to the Brazilian posture towards life, and, last but not least, the great friends I have made there.
7. Where are you moving to next?
God knows… I will probably be assuming a position in our Ministry of External Relations, as soon as the new Government has taken office.