MEL Alumni Newsletter Issue 8, December 2018, Interview with Mr. Kees van Rij, Dutch Ambassador to Brazil

Could you briefly describe your career?

I am the Dutch ambassador in Brazil since August 2018. Before this I served as Dutch ambassador in Turkey, Spain and Greece. Previously I worked as a diplomat in Brussels and The Hague, as well as Peru and South Korea. Between 1994 and 1997 I served as private secretary of Her Majesty the Queen and HRH Prince Claus of the Netherlands."

The Netherlands is one of the main partners of Brazil in several areas, including international trade and education. Recently PoR became shareholder at Port of Pecém, Ceará State. How do you see the Brazilian Ports and Logistics Sector?

I see a lot of potential in the logistics sector. Presently many Dutch companies are already active in Brazil. Not only is PoR shareholder at the Port of Pecém, but it will also construct a new port in Espirito Santo: the Porto Central. KLM sees a growing market and inaugurated in May of this year a direct flight from Amsterdam-Fortaleza. Companies such as VOPAK, van Oord and Damen Shipyards are expending their business in Brazil. In addition, the new government indicated that more ports, terminals, airports, railways and highways will be privatized the coming years. This will offer many business opportunities for companies from the Netherlands.
The Netherlands is an essential business partner for Brazil. In 2017, the Netherlands was the fourth most important export destination for Brazil with €4,061 bln and the import was €2,480 bln. Brazil was also the fifth destination for Dutch FDI: €76,014 mln in 2016. Since 2015 Brazil passed its worst economic crisis and this had its effect on the interests of Dutch companies doing business in Brazil. Some Dutch companies active in Brazil were affected and even had to reduce their activities or production. But the Brazilian economy has been recovering, as the economic growth is expected to be 1.4% this year. In 2019, the forecasted GDP shows a projected growth of 2.5%. I see many business opportunities for Dutch companies during the coming years, especially in the sectors agribusiness, (renewable) energy, High Tech Systems and Materials (HTSM) and Lifescience and Health (LSH). Our diplomatic economic network is well prepared to support those companies that wish to explore opportunities in the growing Brazilian market.

Considering your career success and that this interview will be shared with Erasmus University's MEL Alumni, do you have any message and/or recommendation to share with the new generation?

My most important recommendation is to invest in your skills, in particular foreign languages. Never cease to be curious and be ready to explore new horizons.