After 11 years away, the reopening of the Consulate General of Brazil in Atlanta is a chance for the country to share the benefits of its economic resurgence with the Southeast, officials said Sept. 30.
Brazil’s previous consulate in Atlanta closed in the period after the 1996 Olympics because of financial issues at home.
But “the Brazil that reopens its consulate general in Atlanta is perhaps a slightly different Brazil,” said Antonio Patriota, Brazil’s ambassador the U.S.
A new Brazilian consulate opened its Buckhead offices to the public in late August.
Mr. Patriota told Georgia business leaders at the Metro Atlanta Chamber of Commerce that it represents a revamped Brazilian economy that has curbed inflation and debt and is posting steady gross domestic product growth of 5 to 6 percent.
Equipped with a full trade bureau, the Atlanta consulate aims to help companies in its six-state jurisdiction take advantage of Brazil’s emergence as an economic powerhouse.
At the metro chamber, the sparkling city skyline provided an appropriate backdrop for a reception presenting the new consulate to Atlanta’s business community.
Mr. Patriota told GlobalAtlanta in an interview that the country now has $200 billion in foreign reserves and has become a substantial investor in the U.S., its largest trading partner.
He is lobbying for his government to place branches of the Brazilian Trade Bureau, or SECOM, in each consulate across the country. Only consulates in San Francisco and Houston are left without one, but not for long, he said.
The Atlanta consulate has had a trade branch from the outset because of the timing of the opening and its relationship with Brazil, said Consul General Adalnio Ganem.
“We are aware of the strategic importance of Georgia not only in the United States but also in the global economy; this is why we have a full consulate with a trade sector,” he said.
Business leaders at the reception seemed convinced that the consulate would engender true business engagement and bring more investment from Brazil to Georgia.
A native of Turkey and son of a renowned Turkish ambassador, Coca-Cola Co. CEO and President Muhtar Kent said he’s seen how diplomatic outposts have more than a passing impact on business prospects between countries.
“I grew up in a diplomatic family and I’m keenly aware really of how critical consular offices are to the development of trade relations, to the development of business, and also to the development of tourism and relations between nations,” Mr. Kent told a crowd while introducing Mr. Ganem.
Coca-Cola has done business in Brazil for 60 years, and now the South American nation is Coke’s third-largest market, Mr. Kent said.
While the consulate will help multinational companies like Coke, Mr. Patriota believes it will have a stronger impact on smaller enterprises.
“The private sector has ways of finding good business opportunities on its own, especially the big companies, but the consulate can be very useful in maybe helping small and medium businesses and also promoting more people-to-people contact,” he said.
Neil Scott-Barbour attended the reception to build just those types of relationships for his company, Proteus On-Demand LLC.
Proteus provides temporary structures for sporting contests, outdoor banquets, groundbreaking ceremonies and other events.
His company deals often with customers in Canada and the Caribbean but has no business so far in South America.
With Brazil’s newfound economic clout, Mr. Scott-Barbour believes it is vital to be engaged with the country, and he believes a relationship with the consulate will help him do that.
“It’s more than a token. I think it’s going to be a real business opportunity,” Mr. Scott-Barbour said of the consulate.