U.S.-Brazil Cooperation

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pottery throwing in maragogipinho5Trade and economic cooperation agreements signed between the United States and Brazil, the Western Hemisphere’s largest economies, pave the way for collaboration between Black-owned businesses in both countries, particularly on projects in Africa. They also add momentum to an “Export Green” initiative of the Brazil-U.S. Business Council and TradeRoots affiliates of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which aims to boost exports of Green technology to Brazil by U.S. small and medium-sized companies.

The agreements, which include a Trade and Economic Cooperation Agreement, or TECA, were signed on March 19, the first day of President Obama’s two-day visit to Brazil as part of his first official trip to South America. TECA creates a U.S.-Brazil commission that will be co-chaired by U.S. Trade Representative Ronald “Ron Kirk,” the country’s point man on trade, and by his counterparts from the Brazilian Ministry of External Relations and of the Brazilian Ministry of Development, Industry and Foreign Trade. Among other tasks, the commission will identify opportunities for expanding bilateral trade and investment; promote the removal of unnecessary bilateral trade and investment obstacles, particularly in the regulatory field; and facilitate the exchange of information on trade in goods and services, as well as investment data.

Under an infrastructure accord, Washington will provide $1 billion in financing for infrastructure projects in Brazil’s oil sector via the Export-Import Bank of the United States. Additional financing will go toward joint projects between U.S. and Brazilian companies in third countries, mainly in Africa. A separate deal will seek to improve cooperation on infrastructure and security at the 2014 World Cup and 2016 Summer Olympics, which Brazil will host.

Black-owned businesses in the United States stand to benefit tremendously if they aggressively pursue opportunities that will emerge from the newly minted U.S.-Brazil cooperation. In Brazil, Blacks, including those of mixed race, are the majority of the country’s population, according to a 2009 report from the Rio de Janeiro Federal University, accounting for 49.6 percent of the country’s 203 million people against 49.4 percent for those defined as “white.” With the Black birth rate outpacing that of whites, the Black Brazilian population could reach as high as 54 percent in the coming years, the report said.

Recognizing the strong ethnic ties to Brazil, African-American business-owners have already waded into the commercial waters of Brazil. In November 1999, more than 75 of them accompanied the Washington, D.C.,-based National Black Chamber of Commerce on a trade mission to Rio de Janeiro to promote joint venturing and contracting between African-American enterprises and their African-Brazilian counterparts. In what the chamber termed “the largest trade mission in the history of Rio de Janeiro,” the U.S. delegation met with Brazilian representatives from 250 Brazilian businesses, as well as with Brazilian public officials. Sponsored by General Motors Co., Texaco and the Magna Corp., it was the chamber’s first Brazil mission.

“Millions of dollars in contracts were secured for the entrepreneurs that went with us, and this is only the beginning,” Harry C. Alford, the chamber’s president and CEO, said at the time.

The Brazil-U.S. Business Council, the American Chamber of Commerce for Brazil and the Brazilian National Confederation of Industry took advantage of President Obama’s visit to host a March 18–21 U.S.-Brazil Business Mission to Brazil that featured a business summit in Brasília with a keynote address by President Obama. Following the summit, the mission moved on to Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo, Brazil’s business capital, to explore business opportunities in the energy and infrastructure industries.

The Brazil accords are in line with President Obama’s efforts to double U.S. exports by 2015 by working to remove barriers and other hurdles to export markets abroad for U.S. companies, especially small businesses. Success in those efforts will support millions of new jobs, the administration says. “Every $1 billion of goods and services we export supports more than five thousand jobs in the United States. So, the more we sell overseas, the more jobs we create on our shores,” President Obama said in Brazil.

U.S. exports to Brazil amounted to a record $35.4 billion last year as a two-year rally by the Brazilian currency, the real, against the U.S. dollar made American goods cheaper for Brazilian importers. With a gross domestic product of $1.6 trillion and average annual growth estimated at an enviable 5.6 percent through 2011, Brazil is on track to be the world’s fifth-largest economy by 2050. According to the Brazil-U.S. Business Council, the country is investing heavily in infrastructure to accommodate its rapid growth and to prepare for the 2014 World Cup and the 2016 Summer Olympics. It is particularly receptive to environment technologies in areas where U.S. businesses have a strong competence to compete.

The “Export Green: Growing SME Exports to Brazil” project, which has the support of the U.S. Department of Commerce, is a response to the goals of President Obama’s National Export Initiative. From clean energy, energy efficiency and construction to sanitation, recycling and air pollution, the scope of opportunities for U.S. Green technology providers in Brazil is enormous, project administrators say. For example, opportunities abound for U.S. companies involved in renewable energy generation, a sector that is growing at 18 percent annually, driven largely by sectors such as wind, solar and biomass. Brazil’s wind power sector alone is expected to grow by 20 percent annually until 2030.

Buttressed by legislation and regulations encouraging sustainable practices at the federal, state and municipal level, Green building projects are proliferating throughout Brazil, particularly in large urban centers like São Paulo. With construction set for stadiums, hotels, event venues and urban revitalization, the 2014 World Cup and 2016 Summer Olympics offer numerous opportunities for companies in Green building. The two events are being billed as Brazil’s first “Green events.” 

Energy efficiency is a major goal in Brazil and local utilities are gradually transforming the country’s power grid to make it smarter. The Brazil-U.S. Business Council, whose U.S. side represents major U.S. companies with investments in Brazil, says there’s room in the sector for providers of related specialized goods and services.

President Obama’s trip south also took him to Chile, which he described as “a country with a growing economy, and increasing demand for American goods,” and to El Salvador, “a nation with so much promise for growth with the potential to benefit both of our nations.” Speaking from Brazil, the president said, “Latin America is a part of the world where the economy is growing very quickly.  And as these markets grow, so does their demand for goods and services.  The question is, where are those goods and services going to come from?  As president, I want to make sure these products are made in America.”

He added, “We now export more than three times as much to Latin America as we do to China, and our exports to the region will soon support more than two million jobs here in the United States.”     


Support for Afro-Brazilian Entrepreneurs

In May 2009, 30 young Afro-Brazilian entrepreneurs visited the United States as part of the “Youth in Enterprise: The Buck Starts Here” program to enhance the knowledge and skills of small-business owners in Rio de Janeiro and Salvador, capital of the state of Bahia, the center of Afro-Brazilian culture and entrepreneurship. “Youth in Enterprise,” a citizen exchange program administered for the U.S. Department of State by Levantamos: The Center for Afro-Brazilian-American Cooperation, a nonprofit established in 2004 to improve the  educational, social and economic conditions of Brazil’s Afro-descendant populations, is part of the U.S.-Brazil Joint Action Plan to Eliminate Racial and Ethnic Discrimination and Promote Equality. During his visit to Brazil in March, President Barack Obama and Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff reaffirmed their commitment to cooperation under the Joint Action Plan, the first U.S.-Brazil bilateral initiative targeting racial and ethnic discrimination. With offices in Washington, D.C., and in Bahía, the African capital of Brazil, Levantamos (www.levantamos.org) supports Afro-Brazilian-owned businesses and encourages travelers to Brazil to patronize those establishments.  
— Salome Kilkenny