The South American country’s sweeping rain forests and eco-business opportunities danced across a projection screen as the deputy consul general and trade commissioner of Brazil discussed the country’s economic strong points.
“We are here to promote cultural and trade links between Brazil and the regions that we cover (at the Western states consulate),” said Bernardo Velloso, the country’s trade commissioner and Brazil’s representative to the Western United States. “The message about Brazil today is a very positive one.”
Nevada’s companies totaled a record-breaking $1.54 billion in exports in the first quarter of 2009, starting the state’s seventh consecutive year of increased international export activity, according to data released by the U.S. Department of Commerce. The state’s economic relations with Brazil meant $7.5 million in the first quarter of 2010 for Nevada businesses selling their goods. The country is the 19th largest international trading partner with Nevada. Brazil recently increased its trade with Nevada, moving from the state’s 23rd largest trading partner to the current No. 19 spot. Switzerland, Canada and Mexico make up the top three of Nevada’s international trading partners.
“Brazil is a world economic power in the making,” said Alan DiStefano, director of global trade and investment for the state of Nevada’s Commission on Economic Development. “It is one of the faster growing export markets for Nevada. We believe that it is important enough to us that the Nevada Commission on Economic Development has just appointed an international trade and investment representative for Brazil.”
According to information from the Nevada Commission on Economic Development, Nevada’s main exports to Brazil are first, measuring and checking instruments, appliances and machines; second, electronic integrated circuits including hybrid and monolithic; and third, gas turbines.
What did not make the list was gold and precious ores, an international export that Steve Blackhall is intensely familiar with.
Blackhall is the director of human resources for EP Minerals, a mining company that is based in northern Nevada but is looking to expand into Brazil, in addition to its existing expansions in Asia and Germany.
“For a company like ours, the government (in Brazil) is really restrictive to new businesses coming in,” Blackhall said, adding that the country has a confusing tax structure.
EP Minerals is currently struggling with hiring qualified employees to staff its operations in Brazil. According to Blackhall, the country is extremely employee friendly with extensive laws governing the hiring process. In order to hire, Blackhall is having to find a Brazilian hiring company, or intermediary, to do the hiring leg work for EP Minerals – a service that Blackhall says is extremely expensive.
Blackhall’s concerns were addressed at the Wednesday meeting by Velloso.
“The problem is in part because, like many large countries, Brazil has been very inward looking,” he said. “I see a gradual cultural change … we are not naturally liberal as far as opening up in the economic sense. Over time, many of these barriers that make it so hard will relax.”
In the meantime, Blackhall said he will continue to interview Brazilian hiring agencies, searching for one that can help him for a reasonable price.
The United States is the leading supplier of goods to the Brazilian market at 14.9 percent. China is the second largest importer at 11.6 percent and Argentina is the third largest at 7.9 percent.
“Ninety-five percent of the world’s commerce happens outside the United States,” DiStefano said. “There is no question now that we are connected globally. From the stability of various financial markets it is clear that what they do has an effect on us and what we do has an effect on them.”