J.A. Souza is a former Brazilian legislator and business executive. He is an expert on doing business in Brazil and a member of the Accomplished Executive team at Boardroom Metrics.


This weekend, the Canadian Prime Minister, Steven Harper is visiting Brazil. His goal is to improve trade ties with this fast growing country.

My experience dealing with international missions tell me that after the formal meetings between political leaders, there is seldom any real progress. International companies do not look for important contacts after the meetings to develop new business.

Brazil for certain, is not for beginners.

International companies interested in the Brazilian market need to have strong contacts with professional and experienced collaborators. They cannot trust in politicians, brokers, or people without business expertise.

Brazilian executives, especially in Sao Paulo, have a high level of education (International Masters, PHDs), are experienced, and hard driven. You can compare them to high profiles of European and North Americans executives. Those Brazilian executives do trust in companies that can offer  reliable opportunities to them.

When dealing with Brazil, international companies are confronted with a colossal bureaucracy.  The industrial process in Brazil was designed following the barriers to import model (“modelo de barreira às importações”).

Brazilian producers  have high protection barriers.  The import duty “Imposto de Importação” is very high, in cases where you have a Brazilian similar product.

On top of  the import duty are applied industrial and sales taxes. This is the way that the Brazilian protects local industry. To import products from abroad, the importers need to obtain a paper called “Guia de Importação” , which means the licence to import. When preparing the paperwork to import, the first step is to obtain a quotation, a pro-forma invoice, and the licence to import. The government issue, and update on daily basis,  an enormous document listing all industrial products with national similar.

International companies (and governments) seeking to do business with Brazil need to understand the bureaucracy they will face.  Following opinions from unreliable professionals is dangerous.  However, there are reliable professionals with Brazilian expertise who can improve business between multinational companies and Brazilian markets. These professionals have international experience, good connections, business acumen, and the capacity to reach real opportunities.

If these professionals cannot see real opportunities for international players, they must be able to give truthful  advice, helping international players to avoid wasting valuable resources in defective projects.

A reliable business adviser is crucial for Canadians companies expand in Brazilian markets.