Now is the time to do business in Brazil, the economic powerhouse of Latin America. Free trade is the reason.
You'll be reading more about South America in coming months, and not just in the pages of Plastics News. The United States wants to extend free trade through all of the Americas, from Canada to the tip of Chile, by the year 2005. President Clinton is scheduled to visit Brazil and other South American countries later this year.
Brazil is the most important market in Latin America — bigger than Mexico, more economically dynamic and more independent of U.S. influence. The lure of 157 million Brazilians, including 15 million relatively new consumers freed from the shackles of hyperinflation, was evident at Brasilplast '97, held in March in SÃo Paulo. About 100 U.S. exhibitors — an unprecedented number — had booths there, more than any other foreign country.
Brasilplast, held every two years, is Latin America's biggest plastics trade show.
For years, Brazil was a closed state. Now steps have been taken to lower its import barriers. Although major taxes and red-tape problems remain, it finally is possible to import manufactured goods into Brazil.
But South American governments, and plastics industry leaders, are not waiting passively for all-Americas free trade. South American nations have moved quickly to link their countries economically, most importantly through the 5-year-old Mercosur, a European-style customs union that sets free trade and establishes a common external tariff for imports from outside of South America. Those tariffs are falling.
On the trade association front, the new ALIPLAST group deserves praise as an innovative industry response to free trade. At Brasilplast, plastics association leaders from 10 countries met under the umbrella of ALIPLAST, which covers plastics through all of Latin America.
A major ALIPLAST goal is to help all countries prepare for free trade throughout the Americas. That is a worthy goal. The leading North American associations, the Society of the Plastics Industry Inc. and the Canadian Plastics Industry Association, are encouraged to create formal ties to ALIPLAST.