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Last Published: 11/21/2017

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Brazil is the second largest economy in the hemisphere behind the United States, and the ninth largest economy in the world. The United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) named Brazil the eighth largest destination for global Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) flows in 2015. In recent years Brazil has received more than half of South America’s total incoming FDI and the United States is a major foreign investor in Brazil. The Brazilian Central Bank (BCB) indicated that the United States had the largest single-country stock of FDI (US$112 billion) in Brazil in 2014, the latest year with available data. The Government of Brazil (GOB) has made attracting private investment in infrastructure a top priority for 2017.

Brazil’s recession has been longer and deeper than most economists anticipated. The country’s GDP contracted by 3.6 percent in 2016 and is projected to grow only 0.5 percent in 2017. Per capita GDP decreased 4.4 percent in 2016 for a combined drop of almost 10 percent over two years. While unemployment stood at just 6.5 percent as recently as 2014, it ended 2016 at 12 percent and is projected to end 2017 above 13 percent.

Brazil was the world’s eighth largest destination for Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) in 2015, with inflows of US$64.6 billion, according to UNCTAD. The nominal deficit stood at 9 percent of GDP (US$161.7 billion) in 2016 and is projected to end 2017 at around 10 percent of GDP (US$180.1 billion). Brazil’s debt-to-GDP ratio reached 70 percent in 2016 and is projected to reach 77 percent this year. In part due to the slower than anticipated return to growth, annual inflation fell to 6.3 percent by the end of 2016 -- inside the Brazilian Central Bank’s (BCB) target range of 4.5 percent +/- two percentage points -- for the first time in two years. This allowed the BCB to cut its benchmark interest rate to 11.25 percent (from a high of 14.25 percent in 2016) in April 2017.

Doing Business in Brazil

Doing Business in Brazil







Real GDP growth






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Exports of goods fob (US$bn)






Imports of goods fob (US$bn)






Source: The Economist Intelligence Unit; 07 April, 2017

President Temer took over as interim President after the impeachment of former President Dilma Rousseff began in May 2016; he officially took office in August 2016 after the impeachment was completed. President Temer is now pursuing corrective macroeconomic policies to stabilize the economy. Congress approved a landmark constitutional federal spending cap in December 2016 and is now debating complementary constitutional reforms to curb social security spending. If robust social security reform is approved, financial analysts assert that investor confidence in debt sustainability will strengthen.

Additional reforms to increase labor market flexibility and to rationalize Brazil’s complex tax system are also on the agenda. International capital markets have recognized Temer administration efforts, lowering risk premiums significantly from  2015 peak levels and boosting the value of the real.  2016 and early 2017 foreign direct investment inflows have been strong.  Both portfolio and direct investors, however, remain sensitive to political uncertainties linked to ongoing corruption scandal investigations and Brazilian risk premiums fluctuate accordingly. Brazil has been taking steps to improve infrastructure and education, expand trade, and increase the presence of multinational businesses in the development of Brazil's huge oil reserves. Brazil's large and diversified economy makes it attractive for investors.

In 2016, the United States was the second largest goods exporter to Brazil, accounting for 16 percent of Brazil’s total imported goods; behind China and followed by Germany, Argentina, and South Korea. In 2016, Brazil imported US$30.3 billion from the United States – a 4 percent decrease from 2015, attributable to Brazil’s continued economic recession. Brazil ranked as the United States' twelfth-largest export market for goods in 2016. Brazil is also a large market for U.S. services, accounting for $24.9 billion in exports in 2016, the most recent year for which services data is available. Overall, the United States’ estimated goods and services surplus with Brazil in 2016 totaled $22.3 billion, and Brazil remains the United States’ largest trading partner with which it maintains a trade surplus. (Source: Global Trade Atlas).
Brazil represents an excellent export partner for experienced U.S. exporters. Major reasons to export to Brazil include: 

  • Brazil’s population of 207 million is the fifth largest in the world, representing nearly 3 percent of global consumers.

  • Brazil is also a traditional leader among emerging markets. A BRICS member, many multi-national companies consider it as an essential market for truly global businesses.

  • Brazil has a natural affinity for the United States and a high regard for U.S. made products, brands and technology.

  • The Brazilian Government is actively cultivating relationships with international and U.S. businesses and prioritizing macroeconomic stability. 
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Brazil Trade Development and Promotion