After the recent approval of landmark pension changes and amid a slumping economy, Brazil on Sunday agreed to a new trade deal with the United Arab Emirates with the hopes of strengthening agribusiness, infrastructure, energy and defense.

In his first visit to the Middle East, embattled Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro signed the accord with Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, crown prince of Abu Dhabi.

"Both leaders underscored the excellent economic cooperation between Brazil and the United Arab Emirates and expressed their determination to strengthen it further," a joint statement from the meeting read.

The statement also said that "the two key leaders reiterated the importance of the United Arab Emirates as a key gateway for regional and global markets. In particular, they underscored the potential of leveraging the United Arab Emirates' strategic location, advanced infrastructure and dynamic business environment to facilitate the access of Brazilian products to third-party markets, especially in Asia."

Fernando Luis Lemos Igreja, the Brazilian ambassador to the UAE, said he believes the UAE is a "gateway to the Arab world and Asia." Igreja claims that in 2018, the UAE and Brazil had conducted $2.6 billion in bilateral trade, with that number expected to be higher this year.

After Bolsonaro visits the UAE, he will then take off to Qatar and Saudi Arabia. The Arab world is the second largest food export market for Brazil after China.

Bolsonaro is known for his pro-Israel stance, which has caused controversy between Brazil and the Arab world in the past. Brazil is the largest exporter in the world of Islamically-prepared Halal Meat, but Bolsonaro's support for moving the Brazilian Embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem could hurt these trade ties with Arab countries. Bolsonaro has so far stopped short of moving the embassy, opening up a trade mission in Jerusalem earlier this year.

Bolsonaro has struggled through weak economic growth and his approval ratings have slumped.

In an interview with the Financial Times, Rodrigo Maia, speaker of Brazil's lower house of Congress, said the recently signed pension reform bill "was a great result but the next steps will be key" and that the country is "in by far the most difficult recovery from any recession since the 1980s."

Bolsonaro has hailed the approval of a pension system overhaul.