Brazilians don’t know what Guyana has to offer
– Brazilian embassy official
Local businessmen are interested in doing business with their Brazilian counterparts but many Brazilians do not know what Guyana has to offer.
Head of Administration in the Brazilian Embassy in Georgetown, Rodrigo Govedise made this observation at a workshop organized by the Guyana Manufacturers and Services Association (GMSA) which was held at Red House, Kingston, on Friday.
The session was geared towards providing information on the appropriate methodology to adopt in conducting business with Brazil.
Addressing the businessmen, Govedise advised about business customs among Brazilians and implored Guyanese businessmen to be proactive.
Foreign Affairs Minister Carolyn Rodrigues-Birkett who delivered the opening remarks noted that governments are not the ones that trade but they were responsible for the facilitation of trade, working as far as possible to increase it, especially where exports were concerned, by putting the necessary systems and structures in place. Thereafter, she added, it was for the manufacturers and businessmen/women to make use of the opportunities provided.
She said that as a result of representation from the private sector, the ministry had commenced a review of the Guyana product list with a view to securing greater access for Guyanese products in Brazil, which has agreed to consider the proposals.
She disclosed too that an analysis of trade for the period 2004-07 under the Partial Scope Agreement between the two countries showed that exports were limited to fewer than ten products yearly, and were confined mainly to wood and wood products and bauxite.
She expressed the view however that with the official opening of the Takutu Bridge this would change.
Meanwhile, Rodrigues–Birkett said she visited Brazil in October last year and in discussions with her counterpart Minister Amorim she received a commitment to narrow the commercial imbalance and to promote Guyanese exports in the Brazilian market.
She also said that Guyana was awaiting a response from Brazil with regard to a draft Memorandum of Understanding for the Promotion of Trade and Investment between the two sides, which Brazil had proposed in January this year.
This MOU, she said, was aimed at strengthening trade relations and addressing the imbalance as far as possible in addition to fostering investment flows.
Both Guyana and Brazil have declared their International Port of Entry – Brazil in Bon Fim and Guyana in Lethem – and both governments have assigned the relevant personnel to coordinate and facilitate the movement of goods and services.
Importantly too, Birkett said, government was at present considering concluding a reciprocal agreement with the Government of Brazil for the abolition of visas for businessmen. Currently visas are not required for tourists or visiting relatives for a period not exceeding 90 days (renewable), provided that the total length of stay does not exceed 180 days per year.
There are also plans to upgrade the consular services in Boa Vista – probably relocating to Bon Fim, she added.
Business in Brazil
Meanwhile starting off his presentation, Rodgrigo Govedise responded to questions raised by Richard Winter, proprietor of the Arawak leather factory, who pointed to some issues he had in trying to do business with Brazil. Winter said his experience in this regard was a difficult one in that he was first advised to carry travellers’ cheques and was forced to travel to three states before he was able to change them.
He also sought clarification on the use of US currency to do business. Winter also observed that some businessmen were reluctant to do business and issue the relevant documentation which showed that the required taxes had been paid.
In response Govedise said the travellers’ cheques issue had always been a problem since many Brazilians did not have much contact with people abroad, did not travel abroad and so got confused by things they hardly used. In the bigger cities, however, they were used.
With reference to the relevant documentation he acknowledged that there were good and bad businessmen everywhere and once the appropriate documentation was not issued, this suggested that the businessman was not being legitimate.
On the issue of the use of US currency he noted that the Brazilian Federal Bank had tight regulations regarding the use of foreign currency, which had been beneficial to the country in many ways and had also protected Brazil against the current global financial crisis.
Very few places, therefore, would exchange US currency. Meanwhile he pointed out that much needed to be done to make Brazilians aware that Guyana had much to offer and of the highest quality.
To raise the kind of awareness that was necessary, he recommended that the interested local business sector host fairs and exhibitions to help generate the necessary Brazilian interest and create links. Advertising was also among his proposals but he said this was costly in Brazil.
He pointed out too that once local businessmen had started to create links they should organize business trips. This, he said, was mandatory since it was part of Brazilian business culture.
Govedise also impressed upon the gathering the fact that when trying to do business with Brazilians, individuals had to be confident and fully knowledgeable about the product they were selling as well as being able to provide fast logistical information regarding the time it would take for shipments to arrive there.
“So if you make the offer, you keep it. If you change you could have legal problems and they could become very skeptical in the future,” he cautioned, making it clear that Brazilian businessmen were not willing to deal with any delays.
Being able to seal deals on the spot, he added, was also an important factor. On a lighter note, he emphasized that when conducting business Brazilian businessmen were always decked out in full formal attire and behaviour patterns were always circumspect. This, he observed, was part of the culture.
On the crucial issue of transportation, he said via sea was not difficult and shipping to the northern part of the country would be most convenient and profitable although it could be costly.
To this end he disclosed that the airline Meta, which provides an air link between the two countries was looking to increase its services since Guyana was being looked at as their access to the Caribbean.
In this regard he said too that the Government of Brazil was looking to establish a seaport in either Georgetown or New Amsterdam to receive Brazilian produce and also facilitate trade with Caribbean neighbours.
Finally he alluded to the importance of language. He said Brazilians were a very “inward” people and so were not bi-lingual. According to him more than half of the Brazilian business community did not know English, so it was important to either learn Portuguese or Spanish since the two languages were somewhat similar. Then he remarked in jest, “Let them know you are interested in football and that could also help in breaking the ice.”
Security and customs
Meanwhile E and F Division Commander Louis Crawford’s role in Friday’s session was to take away the security fears of the businessmen willing to get into active trade with Brazil. He said the number of security checkpoints en route to the Takutu crossing had increased. He added that the police recognize that there could be a lot of security challenges in border areas and were prepared for any of these; they would be assisted by the joint services should the need arise.
He revealed that there had been an increase in police strength in Lethem and a simultaneous increase in resources.
Regular patrols had also increased and a checkpoint at Mabura was already up and running. He said the police understood the security concerns of business people and so would ensure that surveillance was optimal.
On the revenue side, Deputy Commissioner General of the Guyana Revenue Authority Mr Sealy explained the taxation specifications which would apply to the import and export of items. He said that the GRA had recently concluded the construction of another office at Lethem.
He said the body had met on previous occasions with its Brazilian counterparts and among other things had agreed on bilingual forms.
With the opening of the Takutu Bridge on July 31 the body’s office in the complex became operational.