‘The Rio Brand;’ and the challenges of business diplomacy

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‘The Rio Brand;’ and the challenges of business diplomacy

Marcos Troyjo
Professor-speaker at Ibmec, and director of BRICLab at Colombia University

Making Brazil and Rio de Janeiro names on the tip of everyone’s tongues is one of the main challenges of those seeking more international insertion for our city, state and nation.

On the one hand, Bossa Nova, our festivals, such as Carnival, the country’s natural beauty and creativity make this a somewhat easier task. On the other hand, our significant social and urban problems are obstacles to promoting Rio. In addition, Brazil, as a whole, does not have a proven trackrecord with regards to promoting trade, investment and/or tourism.

As such, the consolidation of the “Rio brand”, in a scenario of restricted local market growth, has led to the need for Brazil to double its efforts to promote trade throughout the world.

In order not to pull the wool over anyone’s eyes, the underlying scenario is for a lengthy recovery in the global economy, which means markets are increasingly hard to break into and maintain a foothold. The experience of other countries is extremely illustrative, particularly when we note that the strengthening of the Rio brand involves nothing more than making its export of services, aptitudes and tourism more robust, as these are the positive differentials in the creative economy of Rio de Janeiro.

In the US, for example, the country launched a National Export Initiative (NEI) four years ago, with the aim of doubling external sales in a period of five years. China and South Korea have not hesitated to provide finance to its export companies, on increasingly favorable terms. Mexico, Chile, Colombia and Peru have multiplied their bilateral trade agreements without any ideological restraints. This is not only valid for manufacturers, but also intangible goods, among which the Rio brand is included.

For Brazil and Rio de Janeiro, the success of this external insertion through the promotion of trade is essentially a combination of three elements. The first is having good publicity, informational, and analytical material, which should be available on the Internet in several languages, and that can serve as a starting point to generate interest for those wanting to find out more about the country, its states and cities. This material, aesthetic and informational, is what forms the “pillars” of global perception related to the Rio Brand.

The second is an efficient structure to help set up and maintain businesses and trade. The appetite for establishing production units in the country is still keen, and the Rio Brand should fully be aware of this.

It is extremely important that local authorities and state governments have the formal instruments and measures necessary to receive the parties interested in investing and doing business in the region. The promotion of foreign trade and attracting investment into the country cannot be left solely up to the federal government.

One particularly exiting example is Rio Negócios, an entity arising from a public-private partnership that has led to excellent results for the Wonderful City (Cidade Maravilhosa). What would be even better would be if every municipality in Brazil with more than 500,000 inhabitants had its own agency to promote investment and trade!

The third is the proactive element. It is not much use to only have information in foreign languages and available electronically, or offer a ceremonial service for business delegations visiting Brazil. We have to promote our country abroad.

As such, and this is increasingly true, the relevance of so-called “business diplomacy” is rising. The Chinese realized this after hundreds if not thousands of foreign business missions, be they entities representing sectors or provinces and cities. They are always have a presence in the main markets, mapping out opportunities and promoting their brands. Every day, 365 days a year, there are at least two Chinese missions on US soil seeking out new business opportunities.

It is, therefore, of fundamental importance that mayors and governors go on road shows, publicize their states, and promote the attractions. Brazil is still one the most closed economies in the world, and thus this global “building out” is extremely important. All and every effort should be made to promote foreign trade.

With actions that promote both the world’s perception of the differentials offered in Rio, and the global expansion of these measures to project the Rio Brand, we contribute significantly to the city’s entry into a select group of urban conglomerates that can be considered truly global. This is perhaps the main challenge in terms of business diplomacy for Rio de Janeiro.

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