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flag Brazil Brazil: Economic and Political Outline

In this page: Economic Indicators | Foreign Trade in Figures | Sources of General Economic Information | Political Outline


Economic Indicators

Brazil is the sixth largest global economy. Prudent fiscal and monetary policies along with the necessary micro-economic reforms allowed the Brazilian economy to withstand the global economic crisis. After having experienced strong growth, the Brazilian economy started showing signs of a slowdown due to the stagnation of prices of raw commodities in exports, a drop in domestic demand caused by the high level of household debts and a decline in investments. Growth was weak in 2012; however, it increased again in 2013 (2.5%) and inflation was 6%. The economic growth should keep this same pace in 2014.

President Dilma Rousseff is committed to pursue the same politics of Lula, her predecessor. However her interventionism policies hinders investors. The priority is given to relaunch the economy and to encourage foreign investment. The country's potential is hindered by a number of challenges: it has an expensive currency, transportation infrastructures are in decaying conditions and there is social and geographic inequalities. The Plan for accelerated growth includes, among other measures, an extensive program of credit support and financing of investments (about EUR 660 billion) as well as long-term fiscal measures. The government also wants to keep inflation under control and reduce its public debt which has attained more than 60% of GDP. However, the measures that support growth are being delayed and the government is not applying them fairly. Moreover, the country has to start structural reforms such as the modernization of its fiscal system. Salaries are taxed at 58% and the tax share to the GDP (36%) is the highest among the emerging countries. The same is happening with consuming taxes. Lastly, the pension retirement system is extremely high. In mid 2013, a huge protesting movement broke off criticizing the decay of the transportation infrastructures and public services, the poor condition of the education system, the high cost of living and the expenditures for the World's Cup 2014. Public investments are not sufficient to ensure a sustainable growth and private investments declined in 2013. The observers highlight the country's fragility in case of an external impact. In spite of these problems, Brazil counts with efficient multinationals, a performing food-processing industry sector, an important amount of foreign reserves (USD 376 billion) and powerful public bank for the development.

Despite the good economic performance, there are still significant social problems. The country's inequalities are among the highest in the world. There are large regional disparities and delinquency and criminal violence are on the rise. The unemployment rate (5.4%) is getting close to its historical minimum; however, informal employment remains high. Although the results are not equitable, during the last two years 22 million of persons are no longer in extreme poverty conditions.

Main Indicators 20112012201320142015 (e)
GDP (billions USD) 2,474.642,247.752,246.042,244.132,356.78
GDP (Constant Prices, Annual % Change)
GDP per Capita (USD) 12,53611,28111e11,067e11,527
General Government Balance (in % of GDP) -3.0-2.7-3.5e-3.6e-2.8
General Government Gross Debt (in % of GDP) 64.768.266.265.8e65.6
Inflation Rate (%)
Unemployment Rate (% of the Labor Force)
Current Account (billions USD) -52.47-54.25-81.08e-79.63e-85.82
Current Account (in % of GDP) -2.1-2.4-3.6e-3.5e-3.6

Source: IMF - World Economic Outlook Database , Last Available Data

Note: (e) Estimated Data

Main Sectors of Industry

Brazil has abundant natural resources and its economy is relatively diversified.

As a major agricultural power, Brazil is the world's largest producer of coffee, sugar cane and oranges, as well as one of the largest producers of soy. The country also attracts many world groups in the food and bio-fuels industries. Brazil has the world's largest commercial livestock herd. Nevertheless, agriculture's contribution to the GDP is relatively small, accounting for only 5.5%, yet this sector ensures 40% of its exports. Forests cover half of the country, with the largest rain forest in the world situated in the Amazon Basin. Brazil is the world’s fourth largest exporter of timber.

Brazil is also a great industrial country. It benefits from its mineral ore wealth and it is the second world largest exporter of iron and one of the main producers of aluminum and coal. As an oil producer, Brazil is aiming to become self-sufficient in the near future (its reserves could make of Brazil one of the main five producers of oil). The country is asserting itself more and more in the textile, aeronautics, pharmacy, automobile, steel and chemical industry sectors. Most of the large automobile manufacturers have set up their production plants in the country. The industrial sector contributes to more than one-fourth of the GDP but it has experienced a strong slowdown; the government is trying to improve this situation through the "Brazil Maior" plan.

The tertiary sector represents two-thirds of the GDP and employs 60% of the active workforce. In the recent years, the country has embarked on the production of high added-value services, especially in the fields of aeronautics and telecommunications.

Breakdown of Economic Activity By Sector Agriculture Industry Services
Employment By Sector (in % of Total Employment) 15.3 21.9 62.7
Value Added (in % of GDP) 5.7 25.0 69.3
Value Added (Annual % Change) 7.3 2.2 2.0

Source: World Bank - Last Available Data.

Monetary Indicators 20092010201120122013
Brazilian Real (BRL) - Average Annual Exchange Rate For 1 USD 2.001.761.671.952.16

Source: World Bank - Last Available Data.


Learn more about Market Analyses about Brazil on, the Directory for International Trade Service Providers.

Indicator of Economic Freedom


The Economic freedom index measure ten components of economic freedom, grouped into four broad categories or pillars of economic freedom: Rule of Law (property rights, freedom from corruption); Limited Government (fiscal freedom, government spending); Regulatory Efficiency (business freedom, labor freedom, monetary freedom); and Open Markets (trade freedom, investment freedom, financial freedom). Each of the freedoms within these four broad categories is individually scored on a scale of 0 to 100. A country’s overall economic freedom score is a simple average of its scores on the 10 individual freedoms.

Mostly Unfree
World Rank:
Regional Rank:

Distribution of Economic freedom in the world
Source: 2014 Index of Economic freedom, Heritage Foundation


Business environment ranking


The business rankings model measures the quality or attractiveness of the business environment in the 82 countries covered by The Economist Intelligence Unit’s Country Forecast reports. It examines ten separate criteria or categories, covering the political environment, the macroeconomic environment, market opportunities, policy towards free enterprise and competition, policy towards foreign investment, foreign trade and exchange controls, taxes, financing, the labour market and infrastructure.

World Rank:

Source: The Economist - Business Environment Rankings 2014-2018


Country Risk

See the country risk analysis provided by Coface.


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Foreign Trade in Figures

Although foreign trade only represents one-fourth of its GDP, Brazil is amongst the 20 top world exporters and has an enormous economic potential. The country's main trade partners are China, the United States, the countries of the Mercosur and the EU. Brazil’s trade balance is structurally positive.

In 2011, the country recorded the highest trade surplus since 2007. However, it went down by 35% in 2012, a trend that continued in 2013 since its trade surplus was only USD 2.5 billion, a reduction of 87% in relation to 2012. This clear decline was due to the decrease in prices of raw materials, the increase in energy imports and less competitiveness in Brazilian products. However, it is important to note that the export of agricultural products broke the record in 2013, increasing by 4% from the previous year. The surplus (USD 83 billion) obtained from these exports compensated the trade deficit from the other sectors. According to the estimations, the agricultural sector has triplicated its results in relation to the year 2000.

Foreign Trade Indicators 20092010201120122013
Imports of Goods (million USD) 133,673191,537236,964233,388250,447
Exports of Goods (million USD) 152,995201,915256,039242,580242,179
Imports of Services (million USD) 44,07459,51972,97677,75183,540
Exports of Services (million USD) 26,24530,07236,43538,12137,460
Imports of Goods and Services (Annual % Change) -7.635.
Exports of Goods and Services (Annual % Change) -
Imports of Goods and Services (in % of GDP) 11.111.912.614.015.0
Exports of Goods and Services (in % of GDP) 11.010.911.912.612.6
Trade Balance (million USD) 25,27120,14729,80719,4312,553
Trade Balance (Including Service) (million USD) 6,026-10,688-8,145-21,645-44,652
Foreign Trade (in % of GDP) 22.122.824.526.627.6

Source: WTO - World Trade Organization ; World Bank , Last Available Data


Main Partner Countries

Main Customers
(% of Exports)
China 18.0%
United States 12.1%
Argentina 6.3%
Netherlands 5.8%
Japan 3.0%
See More Countries 54.8%
Main Suppliers
(% of Imports)
China 16.3%
United States 15.4%
Argentina 6.2%
Germany 6.0%
Nigeria 4.1%
See More Countries 51.9%

Source: Comtrade, Last Available Data


Main Products

- bn USD of products exported in 2014
Iron ores and concentrates, incl. roasted iron...Iron ores and concentrates, incl. roasted iron pyrites 11.5%
Soya beans, whether or not brokenSoya beans, whether or not broken 10.3%
Petroleum oils and oils obtained from bituminous...Petroleum oils and oils obtained from bituminous minerals, crude 7.3%
Cane or beet sugar and chemically pure sucrose, in...Cane or beet sugar and chemically pure sucrose, in solid form 4.2%
Meat and edible offal of fowls of the species...Meat and edible offal of fowls of the species gallus domesticus, ducks, geese, turkeys and guinea fowls, fresh, chilled or frozen 3.1%
See More Products 63.6%
- bn USD of products imported in 2014
Petroleum oils and oils obtained from bituminous...Petroleum oils and oils obtained from bituminous minerals (excl. crude); preparations containing >= 70% by weight of petroleum oils or of oils obtained from bituminous minerals, these oils being the basic constituents of the preparations, n.e.s.; waste oils containing mainly petroleum or bituminous minerals 7.7%
Petroleum oils and oils obtained from bituminous...Petroleum oils and oils obtained from bituminous minerals, crude 6.8%
Petroleum gas and other gaseous hydrocarbonsPetroleum gas and other gaseous hydrocarbons 3.7%
Motor cars and other motor vehicles principally...Motor cars and other motor vehicles principally designed for the transport of persons, incl. station wagons and racing cars (excl. motor vehicles of heading 8702) 3.4%
Parts and accessories for tractors, motor vehicles...Parts and accessories for tractors, motor vehicles for the transport of ten or more persons, motor cars and other motor vehicles principally designed for the transport of persons, motor vehicles for the transport of goods and special purpose motor vehicles of heading 8701 to 8705, n.e.s. 3.1%
See More Products 75.4%

Source: Comtrade, Last Available Data

See More Products
More imports (Intracen Data)
More exports (Intracen Data)

Main Services

- bn USD of services exported in 2012
- bn USD of services imported in 2012

Source: Comtrade, Last Available Data

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Sources of General Economic Information

Ministry of Agriculture and Reserves (MA)
Ministry of Foreign Relations (MRE)
Institute for Mine development (INDI)
Ministry of Development, Industry and Foreign Trade
Ministry of the Economy (Fazenda)
Statistical Office
Brazilian statistics institute
Central Bank
Central Bank
Stock Exchange
Rio de Janeiro Stock Exchange
São Paulo Stock Exchange
Search Engines
Yahoo! Brazil
Lycos Brazil
Economic Portals
Economic Portal-Brazil

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Political Outline

Executive Power
The president is both Head of State and Head of the Government; he holds executive power. He (and the vice-president) is elected by universal suffrage for a four year term. He appoints the Council of Ministers.
Legislative Power
The legislative power is bicameral. The parliament, called National Congress, is made up of two houses: the Senate (upper house), which has 81 members (3 members for each of the 26 provinces and for the federal district, elected according to the majority principle, for an 8 year term) ; and the Chamber of Deputies (lower house), which has 513 seats (and whose members are elected by proportional representation for a four year term). Each of the 26 States, and the federal district of Brazilia, has a separate legislature and administration. Brazilians enjoy considerable political rights.
Main Political Parties
About two dozen political parties are represented in the National Congress, and politicians often change their party. Parties must form coalition governments to rule. Main parties:
- The Worker's Party (PT): centre-left
- The Democratic Movement Party (PMDB): centre
- The Social Democratic Party
- The Progressive Party (PP): centre-right
- The Party of the Republic (PR): centre-right
- The Democrats (DEM)
- The Brazilian Socialist Party (PSB)
Current Political Leaders
President: Dilma ROUSSEFF (since 1 January 2011) – PT
Vice President: Michel Temer (since 1 January 2011) - PT
Next Election Dates
Presidential: October 2014
Legislative: October 2014
Senate : October 2014 (for 1/3 of the members)

Indicator of Freedom of the Press


The world rankings, published annually, measures the violations of press freedom worldwide. It reflects the degree of freedom enjoyed by journalists, the media and digital citizens of each country and the means used by states to respect and uphold this freedom. Finally, a note and a position are assigned to each country. To compile this index, Reporters Without Borders (RWB) prepared a questionnaire sent to partner organizations,150 RWB correspondents, journalists, researchers, jurists and activists of human rights, including the main criteria - 44 in total - to assess the situation of press freedom in a given country. It includes every kind of direct attacks against journalists and digital citizens (murders, imprisonment, assault, threats, etc.) or against the media (censorship, confiscation, searches and harassment etc.).

World Rank:
3 places down compared to 2013

Source: Worldwide Press Freedom Index 2014, Reporters Without Borders


Indicator of Political Freedom


The Indicator of Political Freedom provides an annual evaluation of the state of freedom in a country as experienced by individuals. The survey measures freedom according to two broad categories: political rights and civil liberties. The ratings process is based on a checklist of 10 political rights questions (on Electoral Process, Political Pluralism and Participation, Functioning of Government) and 15 civil liberties questions (on Freedom of Expression, Belief, Associational and Organizational Rights, Rule of Law, Personal Autonomy and Individual Rights). Scores are awarded to each of these questions on a scale of 0 to 4, where a score of 0 represents the smallest degree and 4 the greatest degree of rights or liberties present. The total score awarded to the political rights and civil liberties checklist determines the political rights and civil liberties rating. Each rating of 1 through 7, with 1 representing the highest and 7 the lowest level of freedom, corresponds to a range of total scores.

Political Freedom:

Map of freedom 2014
Source: Freedom House


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Last Updates: February 2015