Nearsourcers – Is Brazil in Your Future?

I’ve been on a nearsourcing kick for a while now because I never really believed in the outsourcing craze (and the outsourcing craze to China in particular) as it’s just not rational that it should be cheaper to source the vast majority of products from half way around the world. Now, it was for a while, but I’m blaming that on ignorance and incompetence and not what pseudo-economists like to call “market reality”. Let’s face it, fuel is expensive. Labor is expensive … and if you need trucks, boats, and trains to ship your product, that requires lots of extra labor to load and unload. And lead-time is expensive. Who knows where the market is going to move during the 35 days it takes the product to reach your warehouse? You might end up with a lot of unmoveable inventory and that’s going to cost you. (So unless you can air-freight affordably and without a lot of environmental damage, and unless the other factors Dick pointed out in his recent post on Nearshoring are met, outsourcing half-way around the world just isn’t a good idea.) And if we’re as smart as we’re supposed to be, we should be able to innovate a way to produce the (vast) majority of products more cost effectively close to (if not at) home. (If we can’t, shame on us.)

Now, my thoughts were that the rising cost of oil and the rising cost of labor in the former “low-cost” countries would push us back to Mexico — which received a lot of investment before the China craze, which has a lot of excess capacity, and which has a good understanding of our needs — but after reading this recent special report on business and finance in Brazil in the Economist, I’m wondering whether or not Brazil should be getting more attention.

For what might be the first time in modern history, Brazil is democratic, experiencing economic growth, and realizing low inflation. If the trend continues, it could be one of the world’s five biggest economies by the middle of the century. It’s already self-sufficient in oil, it’s government paper is classified as investment grade by all three of the main rating agencies, it is now lending money to the IMF (which was wary of lending to Brazil but a decade ago), and FDI in Brazil is up 30% year-over-year while the FDI global average is -14%. Plus, GDP outpaced inflation in Brazil in 2006 for the first time in over 50 years.

Most economists are pegging its expected growth in the 4-5% range, which is pretty damned good considering the current global economy. Furthermore, this growth should pull its higher-than-average interest rates down to normal levels soon, which will make Brazil a fertile ground for (new) business expansion.

All-in-all, Brazil is looking like a very good location to be near-sourcing from.

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