Brazil is now a $1 billion export market for the state of Georgia, and the country is well-known for a climate surpassed in warmth only by its people. But we’ve always heard that making inroads in the market can be torturous. In April, we decided to join Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed on a trade mission to see for ourselves. The trip was just before the World Cup soccer tournament, which would go off without a hitch (other than the 7-1 Brazil loss to Germany in the semifinals).
The Atlanta delegation was met with lot of enthusiasm, but they also were introduced to some cold realities. A few members of the group were pickpocketed on the streets of Rio de Janeiro. Lawyers in Sao Paulo warned of the red tape facing firms seeking to open local operations. After the trip, many of the companies found themselves crossing Brazil off their lists instead of plowing forward with new plans to dominate the market.
But the mayor did reinvigorate ties with a country seen as a natural partner for our city. Rio de Janeiro, an Atlanta sister city since the 1970s, will host the Summer Olympic Games in 2016, exactly two decades after Atlanta’s Olympics. Georgia maintains a trade office in Sao Paulo. Delta Air Lines Inc. has daily nonstop flights into multiple Brazilian cities and a partnership with Gol that helps travelers reach many more destinations. Many of Atlanta’s largest firms have significant operations in Brazil. Top students from Brazil are studying in the STEM fields at local universities. The list of areas for collaboration is long and varied.
No major deals were announced on the trip, but there’s always next time: Mr. Reed pledged this would not be a “one-and-done” trade mission, and his international affairs team plans to breathe new life into this growing relationship.
We also organized two events related to Brazil in 2014: