BRAZILIAN PRESIDENT Dilma Rousseff’s visit to Massachusetts last week was an important step toward strengthening the bonds between the state and the South American powerhouse. It was her only stop in the United States, other than a visit to Washington to see President Obama.
Massachusetts and Brazil share a blood bond, thanks to the state’s large Brazilian community. But Rousseff’s visit, which followed Governor Deval Patrick’s trade mission to Brazil in December, was more about dollar signs, and making them bigger. Massachusetts has more than kinship to sell.
Brazil has money to spend and needs places to spend it. Through enhanced trade and investment, both parties have an opportunity to get something out of the relationship. Massachusetts exports more than $450 million in goods and services to Brazil; Massachusetts imports $130 million from Brazil. Those numbers are impressive enough, but Massachusetts does not rank in the top 15 states in exporting to Brazil (Texas is first). Brazil is not in the top 10 countries that the state exports to (Canada is first). In other words, there is vast room and capability to grow.
Rousseff and Patrick both seem to know it. Her public statements during her visit to the State House suggest that this state’s welcoming environment for immigrants and foreigners wishing to do business counts for a lot in a nation that is seeking to extend its reach. That sentiment is reinforced by a Citibank-commissioned report on the competitiveness of 120 of the world’s major cities; Boston was 10th in the world. The report highlighted this area’s capacity to attract the world’s top talent, a strong infrastructure, and a welcoming governance environment.
The United States and Brazil are the two largest economies and largest democracies in the Western Hemisphere. Their two-way trade of goods and services has nearly tripled in the last decade, to $100 billion in 2011. But there are 50 states vying for Brazil’s attention. Rousseff’s visit suggests she’s willing to play favorites.