Men work on the Japanese Mitsui O.S.K. Lines ship while it is loaded with containers at the Libra Terminal inside the Porto de Santos shipping facility in Santos, Brazil, on Wednesday, Nov. 21, 2007. Santos is the largest port in Latin America moving annually 25% of the value of goods negotiated by Brazil in the international market. Photographer:
The Brazilian economic juggernaut has slowed this year, but Florida’s trade with Brazil still shows growth.
During the first four months of the year, total merchandise trade with the state’s largest trading partner was up 13.4 percent, according to an analysis by Enterprise Florida, the state’s public/private economic development agency.
Florida exports to Latin America’s largest country grew by 4.6 percent to $5.22 billion and imports from Brazil were up a whopping 87.4 percent to $1.1 billion. Trends were similar in the Miami Customs District, which handles much of the state’s trade with Brazil.
But the big increase in imports may not be too beneficial. Most of it can be attributed to big jumps in just three categories of goods — imports of returned articles (up from $2.4 million to nearly $209 million), articles imported for repairs or otherwise returned (from $77.7 million to $191.9 million) and imports of ethyl alcohol, which went from nil in the first four months of 2011 to more than $69 million this year.
“Someone is turning back a lot of stuff,’’ said Manuel Lasaga, president of StratInfo, an economic consulting firm.
Returns from Brazil, he said, really started to pick up in 2011. “I don’t think this is good for business,’’ he added.
On the export side, civilian aircraft, engines and parts; circuit boards, automatic data processing machines, telephone line equipment, and medical, dental and veterinary instruments were the big sellers.
Fine Arts Lamps, which has manufacturing plants in Hialeah and Miami Lakes, has seen an uptick in its trade with Brazil this year. “Our business is improving. There’s been a great acceleration in project-based work in Sao Paulo, Rio de Janeiro and Curitiba as well as other cities,’’ said Max Blumberg, owner of the firm that makes chandeliers and other high-end lighting. “Construction is going on and the exchange rate is good.’’
Although Brazil’s real
has weakened — sliding 8.5 percent since last year, it’s still relatively strong, making the price of U.S. exports more attractive.
Fine Arts Lamps exports to 72 countries, but Blumberg said, “Brazil is one of our focal points.’’ On Sept. 5, the company is planning a special event with Miami’s Centro Cultural Brasil USA to reach out to Brazilian designers and architects as well as potential Brazilian clients who have second homes in South Florida.
Brazil’s economy grew a robust 7.5 percent in 2010, but as the U.S. downturn continued and the European economic situation deteriorated, growth slowed to 2.7 percent last year.
This year, the economy of China — Brazil’s top trading partner — is slowing and the Central Bank of Brazil estimates growth at 2.5 percent. Other estimates are even lower.
But in a teleconference earlier this week, Alexandre Tombini, governor of the Central Bank, said the Brazilian economy was in “the process of recovery’’ and that growth was expected to accelerate in the second half of the year.
In late 2010, as inflationary pressure mounted, Brazil took steps to cool down the economy and began tightening credit and fiscal policies.
But by last August with the global economy in the doldrums, Tombini said, Brazil decided to reverse its engineered slowdown and ease policies, increasing liquidity, reducing interest rates and providing tax incentives to revive growth.
Meanwhile, Brazil also has continued to create jobs, 1.2 million over the past 12 months, Tombini said.
So even with a difficult global economy, Tombini said he still expected faster Brazilian growth — “4 percent or slightly higher by the end of the year in annualized terms.’’