Of legumes and liberalisation

8 months ago Comments Off on Of legumes and liberalisation

FEW Brazilians get through a day without eating beans. They gobble up 3.4m tonnes a year, a ladle a day for each person. So when prices rise, as they did by a fifth recently after bad weather damaged the domestic harvest, they gripe. On June 24th the government suspended its 10% tariff on imports. Blairo Maggi, the agriculture minister, hopes that Chinese and Mexican farmers will fill the leguminous gap.

In a country prone to protectionist folly, Brazil’s market-minded response to the bean shortage is refreshing. It may portend a greater opening to trade. Though Brazil is the world’s ninth-largest economy, its trade is just 1.2% of the global total; in only five countries does trade account for a lower share of GDP. Brazil’s new centrist government sees exports as one way to pull the country out of its deep recession. Politicians and company bosses are starting to regard trade as a way to boost productivity, and thus growth, in the long run, too.

Of late, the government has tucked into liberalisation as if it were an appetising feijoada (bean-and-meat stew). In April Brazil signed an investment treaty with Peru…Continue reading