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Is Brazil a player in your local economy?

Brazil carnival

By Flickr user Carnaval.com Studios

Brazil – it’s more than just coffee, Copacabana, carnival and race-car drivers.

The globe’s fifth-largest country has been making quite a few economic and political headlines lately – including this report Monday on TheStreet.com, which said investors the financial site polled pegged Brazil as the hot emerging market to watch – beating China, India and others.

If you’re brainstorming for some interesting biz features, get out ahead of the South American story by finding economic ties to Brazil in your region.  Trade, tourism, overseas units of your local manufacturing and service firms – all are ripe for the picking and probably more plentiful than you realize.

So far this year, the U.S. has posted nearly $20 billion in export trade with the South American country, while importing nearly $14 billion, according to this Census Bureau report.   Here’s a more detailed report by 2009 category, from the White House’s trade representative office; check out the breakdown for leads to industries in your area that likely do business with Brazil.

We tend to send machinery, professional services, instruments, wheat and processed foods to the Brasileiros, while buying oil, coffee, fruits and vegetables and even red meat from them.

I’ve noticed in recent years that a number of specialty products from the country – like the tropical berry Guarana, Brazilian beauty treatments, churrasco restaurants – are enjoying brisk business here, and of course the popularity of Brazilian music in the U.S. has ebbed and flowed in fads that started before World War II. Samba, anyone?

You could dip a toe into the topic by checking local pop culture and retail business for Brazilian ties, and then branch out into weightier economic topics.

Brazil weathered the global financial crisis fairly well and is forecast by the U.S. state department to post real GDP growth of more than 7 percent this year.  Eighty-eight percent of its 200 million or so residents are literate and the country is rich in natural resources including water, minerals and petroleum.

Last week, the state-run oil company, Petrobras, made global headlines as investors snatched up the largest share offering ever, pumping more than $70 billion of capital into the energy giant, now the world’s third-biggest oil firm.

Talk with your region’s economic development leaders about their Brazil strategy, along with manufacturers, consumer goods makers, financial companies and others about their selling and manufacturing initiatives there.  Ford Motor Co., for example, has erected one of the world’s most state-of-the art automotive plants in the country’s Bahia region; it’s considered highly advanced in terms of process, labor relations and ‘green’ initiatives.

Brazil exports many gems and minerals; check with jewelers, artisans and light industrial firms for ties.  It’s home to Embraer, one of the premier private aircraft makers, and – despite some serious gang and drug crime in major cities – still a destination for tourists.

To locate academic experts, seek out Brazilian studies departments at area schools and business colleges; here’s one at the University of Pittsburgh. Find up-and-coming Brazilians who’ve chosen a U.S. education through university groups, like this one at Indiana University. They in turn might lead you to connections or family members doing business in your market – or planning to.

In Beats, Economy, Featured, Story ideas.

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