Brazil has seen its share of second-guessing in recent years, as the world’s biggest corruption scandal fed into a 2018 presidential election that produced a clear winner but an unclear prognosis for Latin America’s largest economy.
Sworn in Jan. 1, new President Jair Bolsonaro has been characterized as a far-right populist, a former army captain with a Trumpian penchant for disrupting the status quo with a brash, unapologetic style.
Many Brazilians, especially those 55 million who helped him secure nearly 56 percent of the vote, welcome Mr. Bolsonaro’s plans to shake things up by reducing corruption, improving security and pushing ahead with economic reforms.
Given his history offensive comments on women, homosexuals and minorities, some are worried about the deterioration of Brazil’s human rights situation, as well as an effort to loosen gun laws for private citizens that many believe will actually increase violence.
On the economic front, Carlos de Abreu, Brazil’s newly appointed consul general in Atlanta, believes things are on the upswing, citing recent opinion polls in which some two-thirds of the population see the economy’s direction positively.
“In Brazil there is a lot of optimism,” Mr. Abreu told Global Atlanta in an interview at his Buckhead office.
That will be on display as Mr. Bolsonaro and his deputies outline their agenda at this week’s World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, Mr. Abreu said.
Not only will Mr. Bolsonaro take center stage as other global leaders like President Donald Trump and key European figures stay home deal with domestic issues, but he will also bring along his economy minister, Paulo Guedes, and the new justice minister, Sergio Moro.
“They will be able to start telling the story, and especially how they will implement this bold agenda of free market reforms and law-and-order policies,” Mr. Abreu said.
Mr. Moro’s appointment is particularly significant given his celebrity status as the ex-federal judge that carried out Operation Lava Jato (or Car Wash), the corruption investigation which landed some of the most powerful politicians in prison.
Mr. Abreu said the new president’s plans to privatize many industries and reform the pension system will be paired with an opening of the Brazilian market to foreign investors and a plan to reinvigorate investment ties with the U.S. The South — a key growth area — should benefit proportionally. Already he and his trade team at the consulate are formulating plans to welcome more Brazilian visits than in years past.
“At present, of course, I’m doing my homework, but we are designing a strategy and a plan of action to turn our goals into a reality. You’ll be seeing a lot of activity: trade missions, seminars and of course, visits from high officials from federal government but also from states and municipalities.”
“You’ll be seeing a lot of activity: trade missions, seminars and of course, visits from high officials from federal government but also from states and municipalities.”
Mr. Abreu noted that Brazilian companies have invested $4 billion in the U.S., with much of that coming to Georgia. To name a few: Pilgrim’s Pride is owed by Brazil’s JBS, Merchant E-Solutions has its fintech headquarters operation in Atlanta and just last week, Forquimica noted that it would put a new fertilizer factory in south Georgia.
The new government should have a more positive approach to American investment in the notoriously tough-to-navigate Brazil market. Recent approval of Boeing’s planned $4.2 billion acquisition of Embraer amid attempts to block the deal is a prime example, he said.
Mr. Abreu added that the new government is planning to increase international trade’s proportion of economic output from 22 percent to 30 percent.
“If you want to export more, you need to import more. If you want to receive investment, you need to also invest abroad. It’s a two-way street. It needs to be good for both countries,” Mr. Abreu said.
The new consul general comes to Atlanta from Sydney, where he served in the same capacity, but it’s not his first time in the United States. He sees many similarities between his two most recent postings — big, continental countries in the Anglo-Saxon orbit, though with different English accents and pace of life.
Where the U.S. and Brazil are concerned, there’s also a lot of commonalities to build upon, along with people-to-people exchanges now becoming easier with a new e-visa that allows American travelers to apply for a tourist visa to Brazil online.
“I think the sky is the limit on the social front. We are multiethnic, multicultural societies, but this goes well beyond race. It includes values, principles and the way of living.”
Need to know more? There are two chances in Atlanta Jan. 23 to learn more from experts about the new government and Brazil’s economy:
1/23, 8 a.m. — Brazilian Economic Outlook 2019
1/23, 5:30 p.m. — Tropical Trump? What’s Next for Brazil Under Bolsonaro