An exceptionally well attended and lively debate on the issues facing Brazil pre hosting the 2014 Football World Cup made this one of the best seminars run by MEI for a good while. We were very fortunate to hear the reflections of Alan Charlton, the previous HM Ambassador to Brazil as well as the insights on the situation from Jeff Garmany, an expert in Brazil and a lecturer at the Brazil’s institute at Kings College London. Fernando Duarte, a well known and highly respected journalist, also gave his assessment of the challenging times and implications that these have for the 2014 Football World Cup. The seminar was hosted together with Kingston Smith LLP and Nabas Legal LLP and attracted around 60 attendees who took an active part in the debate and asked some challenging questions.

The event opened with Dennis Mills, CEO of MEI, explaining the challenges and opportunities when supporting companies in how to enter the market and how best to succeed, given the unique window of opportunity for companies around the 2014-2016 events. Some of the challenges include: the need to speak Portuguese, business culture, travel and time implications, as well as the highly competitive commercial environment. Local representation is therefore vital and attendance at Soccerex in November will present an excellent opportunity to promote you and your company.

Alan Charlton then followed with a unique insight from his experience as the former HM Ambassador to Brazil. In his comments he outlined his own assessment about the growth potential of the nation which has been booming for the last decade, but slowing for the last 3 years. There are many opportunities that exist around minerals, oil, agriculture, science and aerospace. He highlighted that UK companies are succeeding in this market as Brazil needs foreign experts and foreign capital to conclude its projects. Traditionally, Brazilians have a high regard of UK companies and British’s business culture. The UK’s technology and know-how are some of the reasons why Brazilian companies find UK companies attractive to do business with, and for major events niche areas such as temporary overlay. Alan has now left the Civil Service and as he could not stay for the duration of the event, MEI committed to follow up with companies for him.

Alan was followed by Jeff Garmany an expert in Brazil and a lecturer at the Brazil institute at Kings College London. He covered how the geographic and political situation is having an impact on recent sports events in Brazil such as the Confederations Cup. He further explained the Brazilian context for this year’s demonstrations and how they started. He identified as key causes Brazil’s lively democratic tradition, the vast number of demands for change from the people such as transport pricing, poor infrastructure, or corrupt officials, and the opinion of inappropriate expenditure on venues for games. He explained that the timing of the demonstrations was no coincidence as these were motivated by Brazil hosting sporting events and the scale of the demonstrations was due to use of social media as an organic platform to share ideas and express opinions. He also covered how these can impact in next year’s FIFA’s World Cup.

Following Jeff Garmany’s presentation there was a video conference with Ricardo Demarchi, MEI’s Associate Director in Recife. In his presentation, Ricardo gave an overview on how to expand business into Brazil and more precisely into the Northeast region. He mentioned the importance of unwritten rules and the fact that Brazil has a different business culture from that of UK. He also referred to the great number of opportunities that are being created in the Recife area, an area with approximately 53 million inhabitants. Such are the number of opportunities that these are starting to have consequences on the migratory path for workers, reversing a north-south to a south-north pattern. According to Ricardo, the core areas for UK companies to invest in Brazil’s vast Northeast region are: agriculture, common goods, transport, oil and energy and sports.

After the teleconference to Brazil, there was an overview by Paul Spindler, Partner at Kingston Smith LLP, about the taxation issues which UK companies should consider when seeking to trade in Brazil. He gave examples from different market sectors such as internet based businesses, breweries and beverage, services or the extraction industry. He concluded that while the issues are complex, companies do not need to understand all the regulations. This tends to change on a regular basis but he advises for companies to approach a consultant for general advice so that companies do not need to worry about this specialist area. Paul then fielded a number of questions to clarify particular cases for the companies who were present.

Paul was then followed by Fernando Duarte who expressed his vision on how the demonstrations around the Confederations Cup will affect Brazil’s external image in the years to come. Fernando concurred with the view that it was general frustration about what some feel are the wrong investment priorities of the nation as well as poor infrastructure and services for people of all classes. The protests had major implications for major brands, he mentioned. The main sponsors for the tournament felt intimidated in associating their names even though the Confederations Cup was considered a success. However, the protests did negatively impact on football’s image in Brazil showing that football is no longer “sacred”.

Lastly, Vitoria Nabas, of Nabas Legal LLP gave her insight on the issues companies need to be aware from a legal standpoint when trading in Brazil. These covered employment considerations, the reach of the UK Bribery Act, company structure options and the need to proceed with great caution and not to be fooled into taking short cuts. As always, Vitoria’s presentation provoked some deep thinking needed by those attending and Vitoria is available for company specific questions on a one to one basis.  

During the networking drinks reception, there was a short presentation on Geneva 2014 – International Sports Conference by Nigel Fletcher, which MEI strongly recommends companies attend. There will be an awards ceremony for companies supplying into major evnets and more details are to follow. As some fun we were fortunate to have a prize of 6 bottles of Brazilian Wine presented by Nick Corfe of Go Brazil who is the only UK supplier of Brazilian wine and this went to Rohan Lock of Dotmailer. AFEX were once again exhibitors at the event, and gave a short overview of how they can support companies in Brazil and other markets with currency transactions. They presented two pair of tickets to Saracens Rugby matches to Monica Machado of Jlegal and Alex Dingwall of Global Infusion Group.

Click Here for downloads of presentations and speaker biogs from the day.

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