Spain's foreign minister lobbied here Thursday for strengthening "economic diplomacy" to tighten economic and trade links between his country and Brazil.

On his first visit to the Latin American country since he took over his Cabinet duties, Jose Manuel Garcia-Margallo's objective is to stress Brazil's importance "as a strategic partner," he told a press conference at the headquarters of the Spanish Chamber of Commerce.

Spain is the second-largest foreign investor in Brazil, with a total of $85 billion invested here so far, according to official figures.

The minister, who on Thursday met in Sao Paulo with representatives of Spanish groups with interests in the country, said that one of his priorities is to provide more resources and training to Spain's diplomatic legations to contribute to the process of internationalizing Spanish business.

He said the 47 Spanish embassies and 54 consulates that lack trade attaches will receive the proper training to guarantee they can provide support for Spanish businesses who are seeking economic opportunities abroad.

As the executive director of the Spanish Chamber of Commerce, Maria Luisa Castelo, told Efe, one of the points discussed with Garcia-Margallo during the meeting concerned the difficulties for small and medium-sized businesses who want to establish operations in Brazil.

Castelo emphasized the costs of setting up in the country and the high level of bureaucracy as two of the thorny points for smaller firms who want to enter the Brazilian market.

The minister's visit to Sao Paulo was scheduled to end Thursday afternoon with a visit by the former president of Brazil, Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, and a reception at the Miguel de Cervantes school.

Garcia-Margallo met on Wednesday in Brasilia with Brazilian Foreign Minister Antonio Patriota.