Scotland politics

Brazil's Latin spirit could be boost for Scottish trade

It's not easy to focus on an economic crisis when you are in a country that's bucking the trend.

But Brazil's economy is doing just that. It is positively booming compared with Scotland's and the rest of the UK's.

Just one statistic which I discovered this week illustrates that fact.

More than 30 million Brazilians have moved up the ladder in the past few years, to join the ranks of the middle classes, which means it's not just business and trade which is on the up, Brazil's population is too.

And luckily for Scotland, whisky has become something of a status drink for the aspirational in society here. Exports of Scotch have soared this year to £75m.

New deals

Scottish industry leaders and ministers are eager for Scotland to grab more of Brazil's success, wealth and optimism.

That's why they've been in Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo seeking potential business and putting Scotland's trade links with one of the world's fastest growing economies under the microscope.

New partnership and business deals worth an estimated £3m have been signed over six days of almost back-to-back meetings involving the 25 organisations which joined the largest ever Scottish trade mission here.

The six day event was led by Scottish Secretary Michael Moore and was organised by the Scottish Council for Development and Industry.

The SCDI's chief executive Lesley Sawyer has conceded there's been a "lull" in Scotland's profile in Brazil, something she and industry chiefs are keen to rectify.

At a St Andrew's night event at the UK Consul General's residence in Sao Paulo on Wednesday, some exasperation was expressed by a few of the Scots already living here.

Profit potential

Graham Miller, a businessman who's been living here for 35 years, told me he was surprised that so few Scottish and British companies had cashed in on Brazil's new found wealth and said he'd even given it a name - gin and tonic syndrome.

His theory went like this: that although the majority of businessmen and women who come on trade missions arrive in Brazil with high hopes ... they lose their trade aspirations at some point after boarding their 11 hour flights home.

Mr Miller suggested that point was after their second gin and tonic. His point is not lost on those leading the delegation here.

Dealing with bureaucracy, visas, import duties, and legalities, as well as finding trading partners, finance and dealing with distance are obstacles which can and do take time and effort to overcome.

But what's clear to those who've been here this week is that the potential for business and profit is huge.

Perhaps those flying home should skip the gin and tonic. Maybe whisky or a caipirinha might be a better option.

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