Buenos Aires – Iranian foreign Minister Mohammed Javad Zarif had an official visit to Venezuela, Ecuador, Cuba, Nicaragua, Bolivia, and Chile; after which Asharq al-Awsat newspaper met with Co-Founder and Managing Partner of Knightsbridge Partners Daniel Melhem to speak on matters of investments in South America.
Melhem , who is also an international economic expert on matters of the European and Asian market, stated that Latin America would rather attract Gulf investment.
When asked about the Iranian investment in Latin countries, Melhem said that Iran is not a big investor in Latin America, with its investment mostly in Leftist countries, especially Venezuela. He added that Latin countries are divided among those who have good relations with the U.S. and the west, and others that belong to the Leftist axis.
He explained that 3% of the Argentinian people are of Arab origins who mainly work in trade.
The expert added that Iran tried to come close to the Argentinian government but failed to do so, given the bad past of Iran and Hezbollah militias in Argentina which makes them unwelcomed in the country.
Asharq Al-Awsat asked Melhem to explain the reason why Latin America would prefer Arab investments rather than Iranian. He explained that Arab countries, and the Gulf to be specific, are welcomed. He said that though Tehran is geographically close to the Arab countries, Argentina prefers to buy gas and energy sources from Gulf countries.
Melhem said that Gulf countries now have direct flights to Buenos Aires and Brazil. He added that there is a great interest in Gulf investments in Latin America. He explained that Argentina and Latin countries like Arab investments because of cheaper oil prices.
The expert also spoke of food exports that are important for Latin America and Arab world, given the exchange between both.
When asked to analyze the Arab investments in South America, Melhem said that he would like to see more of the Arab investments in the region, precisely the countries of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC). He added that Brazil is considered the best for the investments now and advised GCC to benefit from the opportunity.
Melhem said that Saudi Arabia and Qatar are the largest countries of the GCC investing in Argentina.
Qatar invests mainly in large corporations, while Saudi Arabia primary directs its investments towards agriculture. So he went on to say that agriculture and food sector hold the most important opportunities for investments, in addition to tourism in countries like Brazil.
Argentina will be hosting next month a large economic convention soon in cooperation with the World Economic Forum. GCC has been invited to the convention.
The economic expert said that Argentina is an open country and there are several sectors for investments such as tourism, agriculture and others.
Melhem believes that absence of war and major problems in Latin America are the main reasons it could be a great place for investments. He also thinks that the availability of food and water, and trade could bring more investments. He gave examples as well of UAE investments in technology and health. All in all, there are major points that could bring Arab countries closer to Latin countries for better integration.
Asharq Al-Awsat asked Melhem about the expected visit of Iranian foreign minister to Chili, he said that Iran aims to export oil and gas to Chili. But, according to Melhem, Chili seeks the Asian market for economic purposes and thus Iran is not a target. But he believed that Argentina is not happy about the visit of Zarif to its neighbor Chili.
Finally, Melhem expressed that Saudi Arabia has an economic vision and with Vision 2030, he said that Saudi Arabia will have better investments. He pointed out that the coming years will be better for Latin American countries that will be better than a lot of the European countries especially after the Brexit.