Economic and political changes in Brazil have created opportunities for Georgia companies involved in information and environmental technologies, agricultural products and services and franchising, said Miguel Pardo de Zela, senior commercial officer with the U.S. Foreign Commercial Service in Sao Paulo.

      Brazil, with its population of 160 million, accounts for half of the economy of Latin America, said Mr. de Zela at a Metro Atlanta Chamber of Commerce briefing on Brazil on Jan. 9.  The country has been a “sleeping giant, in a state of dormancy for 25 years because of its own policies of state control and protecting local industries,” he added.

      The government now realizes that privatization, entrepreneurship and competition are key to Brazil’s development, he said, and has begun to turn over state-held industries to private companies, while lowering the average tax or tariff trade barrier from 40% to 12%.

      Computer and communications technologies are needed to bring local companies up to speed, said Mr. de Zela, adding that U.S. companies must provide service and support for their products in order to succeed in the Brazilian market, which is crowded with competing companies from Europe and Asia.

      Other opportunities exist in the area of environmental technologies, he said.  In its rush to industrialize in the 1980’s, Brazil essentially ignored the environment, and the larger cities now have serious problems with pollution, he added.

      Despite environmental concerns in urban areas, Brazil has a strong agricultural sector, and there is a large market for products that improve or add value to the country’s produce and livestock, he added.

      While foreign companies are now being allowed to compete in Brazil, a traditional lack of competition in the services sector has made certain services, including auto repair and dry cleaning, extremely expensive.  These high costs have left an opening for U.S. franchises, which can operate more cheaply, to step into the market, Mr. de Zela said.

      The briefing was co-sponsored by the U.S. Export Assistance Center (USEAC) and the Brazilian American Chamber of Commerce. 

      The Commercial Service in Sao Paulo may be reached at 55-11-853-2811, or call USEAC at (404) 657-1900.  The Brazilian chamber can be reached at 589-8252 and the number for the Metro chamber is (404) 586-8460.