Perhaps unfairly lumped in with Russia, India and China, Brazil has natural assets – sunny disposition, carnival attitude – that are peculiarly unquantifiable. And as Monocle’s trip to the country discovered, the next 10 years might be its best.
On a recent tour of Brazil that saw Monocle’s editors spend time with diplomats and policymakers in Brasília, entrepreneurs in São Paulo and politicians and pretty people in Rio de Janeiro, the subject of the nation’s natural assets were a constant topic of conversation. While it’s hard to ignore the hulking Petrobras building in the centre of Rio and the role the company will play in extracting oil from fields not far offshore, it’s even harder to ignore the enormous goodwill the country enjoys on the world stage.
Brazil may not have as many homegrown, global brands as the Germans, Swiss or Japanese. Or does it? Look up and there’s a very strong chance that many of the private and commercial jets criss-crossing the skies were made at the headquarters of Embraer in São José dos Campos. Having seized the No 3 position among the world’s civil aircraft manufacturers, Embraer is now working hard to expand its military portfolio with the development of a tactical transport aircraft. Look down during the warmer months and there’s a strong possibility that a pair of Havaianas flip-flops will be sole-slapping somewhere within ear shot. Recently the company explored the possibility of moving some of its manufacturing to China but realised the very essence of its brand was its unique rubber and its Made in Brazil label.
One company executive put it more bluntly. “People think that all of the BRIC [Brazil, Russia, India, China] economies are the same on the factory floor. I can tell you that’s not the case. The working conditions are rather more evolved in Brazil than in China.” If she means things are a little softer in Brazil then she has a point – not just the quality of the rubber or the state of the workplace but also those assets that are trickier to measure than barrels of oil or aircraft fuselages. If it was Brazil’s kissy-huggy spirit that helped it win IOC delegates’ votes in Copenhagen to secure the 2016 Olympics, then it’s the same attitude that has tourists flocking to Florianópolis, airlines expanding schedules to points beyond the hubs of Rio and São Paulo and investors snapping up land to build vacation compounds.
When was the last time you heard developers talking about building holiday homes for foreigners in India, China or Russia? For sure Brazil has a raft of security and social issues to deal with, but when it comes to offering a climate that’s more cosmopolitan than its rivals there’s little competition.
Since President Lula took office and delivery of some longer range VIP aircraft, he and his foreign ministry staff have been clocking up some serious mileage visiting capitals predictable and less so (see our table on page 34). To date, most of the world has been familiar with the sunnier side of Brazil’s disposition, but as we found on our visit to Brasília, some countries might have to get used to a nation that’s becoming increasingly comfortable with using its considerable influence to create a “third way” in foreign policy and shape fresh alliances.
If “Brazil’s decade” officially started when Rio’s mayor Eduardo Paes won the Olympic bid for his city, then it will be up to the next president (elections will be held in October this year) to make sure the country vaults across the finish line some time just before 2020.
A few ways diplomats in Brasília might turn up the volume on Brand Brazil:
Create a global, public service news organisation broadcasting in Portuguese, Spanish, Mandarin, Japanese, Arabic and English.
Staff the network with the smartest and best-looking people the nation has to offer.
Create a new architectural language for foreign missions and put architect Isay Weinfeld in charge.
Turn an existing airline into a global mega-carrier or create a new one.
Make Brazil synonymous with the best in service across all sectors.