Published Mar 21, 2023 by Alex Peña
Growing business ties and economic opportunities between Houston and Brazil were the focus of discussion during a recent Partnership event. Both regions share economic interests such as the growing startup and tech ecosystems and energy transition efforts.
Business Beyond Borders, an internationally focused Business Resource Group (BRG) offered by the Partnership, convened global business professionals recently for a discussion on Brazil’s economy and trade as Houston’s third largest trading partner and Texas’ top South American country for foreign direct investment and trade.
The program featured Ambassador Maria Izabel Vieira, Consul General of Brazil, who provided remarks to kick off the event, followed by a discussion with John Moseley, Chief Operations Officer, Port of Houston, and moderator, George Y. Gonzales, Partner, Haynes Boone.
A major theme throughout the discussion was the increasing growth and opportunity Brazil presents. Trade between Houston and Brazil reached a 10-year high in 2021 at $16.9 billion.
“Brazil has one of the largest and most dynamic economies in the world that has shown remarkable resilience,” Vieira said. She added Brazil holds a significant position in the oil and gas industry as well as a growing position in the innovation and technology sectors.
Moseley echoed Vieira’s sentiment as he discussed opportunities Brazil offers to Texas and Houston with the country’s growth potential. “When you think of international trade, you immediately think of China. Brazil doesn’t get a lot of headlines, but they have a significant economy in North America and the world that has global stature,” Moseley said.
Here are a few more key takeaways from the discussion:
Brazil’s Clean Energy Grid
Renewables meet almost 45% of the primary energy demand in Brazil, making its energy sector one of the least carbon-intensive across the globe. The country’s energy grid has one of the cleanest in the world coming from renewable resources.
Moseley said there’s an excellent opportunity for Brazil and Houston to continue the conversation surrounding the energy transition. Events like CERAWeek and the Partnership’s Future of Global Energy conference serve as avenues, allowing both regions to discuss challenges and opportunities.
Brazil touts itself as one of the largest innovative and entrepreneurial places that fosters growth. Vieira highlighted the country’s rapidly growing digital tech scene, emphasizing the massive potential of the Porto Digital Technology Park. Vieira said in 2020, 8.4% of Brazil’s GDP was within digital technology, and this is expected to grow to 10% by 2025. She added there has been a 20% increase in the number of startups in Brazil, further signaling the growing interest in innovation.
According to a report by IBM, 78% of business leaders plan to invest in AI and digital tech across the globe, which Vieira said that places Brazil in a valuable and favorable position for these investments.
Houston’s position as a global leader in tech and innovation creates opportunities for the Partnership with Brazil, leading to beneficial aspects for both countries.
Brazil’s Unique Position and Growth
“Brazil’s proximity to Houston as the energy hub of the world provides a unique opportunity. There are lots of parallels Brazil has with Houston including a focus on the energy transition and having one of the largest agriculture economies,” Moseley said, adding the country’s leadership in the renewable energy space also provides a significant opportunity for leadership in this sector.
According to a 2013 study by the Boston Consulting Group, the rapid recent growth of the middle class has outlined an opportunity for firms to invest in Brazil. “There has been an incredible rise in the middle-class population with nearly 40 million accounting for the overall increase in the region,” Moseley said. Gonzales added “the middle class is what drives the economy – healthcare, education and infrastructure.”
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