Brazil­ian fi­nance min­is­ter at­tempts to woo Bri­tain with free trade of­fer

The Sunday Telegraph - Money & Business - - Business - By Tim Wal­lace

BRAZIL hopes to be­gin free trade ne­go­ti­a­tions with the UK as soon as pos­si­ble, the coun­try’s fi­nance min­is­ter said on a visit to Bri­tain, as the South Amer­i­can na­tion seeks to open up to the world.

“We are ready to open dis­cus­sions with the Bri­tish Govern­ment,” said Hen­rique Meirelle. “They have al­ready shown an in­ter­est in bi­lat­eral ne­go­ti­a­tions for a pos­si­ble trade agree­ment. We do think that is a good idea.”

Talks can’t be­gin un­til Brexit has for­mally taken place. Mr Meirelles was speak­ing at an event hosted by Itau, Brazil’s big­gest bank, where he told a Lon­don au­di­ence that the govern­ment aims to trans­form the coun­try into an open, dy­namic, mar­ket econ­omy.

“Brazil is a closed econ­omy with pro­tec­tion­ism and closed mar­kets, taxes, ad­min­is­tra­tive bar­ri­ers. And it was not pos­i­tive in terms of hav­ing an ef­fect on the pro­duc­tiv­ity rate of the coun­try,” he said.

“The idea now is ex­actly the other way around, it is to open. We are mak­ing the ba­sic re­forms to make Brazil­ian com­pa­nies more com­pet­i­tive. The idea is to have a more com­pet­i­tive, open econ­omy.” The visit aimed to woo Bri­tish in­vestors and of­fi­cials, show­ing that the coun­try is at last get­ting to a po­si­tion where it can make the most of its vast po­ten­tial.

At the start of this cen­tury, Brazil was in­cluded in the in­flu­en­tial “Brics” acro­nym, along with Rus­sia, India, China and South Africa, as growth economies of the fu­ture. But Brazil has strug­gled to match that am­bi­tion.

More than half of its govern­ment’s bud­get goes on so­cial se­cu­rity, with pen­sions tak­ing up a con­sid­er­able chunk of that, prompt­ing the min­is­ter to seek to re­form that sys­tem be­fore de­mo­graphic change takes the costs to a crush­ing level.

He has also pledged to slash bu­reau­cracy to make the econ­omy more com­pet­i­tive. The min­is­ter said it takes 101 days to regis­ter a new busi­ness in Sao Paulo and he aims to cut that to three.

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