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Published: Tuesday, 3/6/2001

Trade officials eye growing market on 1st stop


SAO PAULO - An Ohio trade mission led by Governor Taft has arrived in Brazil enthused by the country's warm weather and confident it can tap into this huge and rapidly growing market.

“Brazil has amazing growth potential. I am personally very excited about the opportunities for us here,” the governor said.

Speaking at a reception dinner Sunday sponsored by Ohio-based jelly giant J.M. Smucker, Mr. Taft said the mission aims to develop opportunities for trade between Ohio and South America, as well as strengthen existing political, cultural, and educational ties.

“Exports from Ohio to Brazil grew 27 percent last year, reaching $320 million, and we are hoping for similar growth this year,” the governor said.

He praised the pioneering spirit of Smucker's in international markets and urged more Ohio companies to follow suit.

“Smucker is a big player in the international scene, exporting to over 70 countries, and is setting the pace for business excellence,” Mr. Taft said.

According to the company's general manager for South America, Mark Smucker, the company so far has a lower profile in Brazil. Smucker supplies mainly fruit preparations for the yogurt and dairy industry but has plans to break into the retail sector soon.

Mr. Taft is accompanied by representatives of 27 Ohio companies and organizations, mostly from the agriculture and manufacturing sectors, on the two-week South American trade mission, which includes trips to Brazil, Argentina, and Chile.

The governor will return to Ohio to attend the funeral of former Ohio Governor James A. Rhodes.

At the reception dinner, Governor Taft asked for a moment of silence to honor his friend and former governor.

In 1999, Brazil, Argentina, and Chile respectively ranked as Ohio's 12th, 26th, and 31st largest export destinations, with exports to the three countries combined totaling around $420 million.

Mr. Taft said trade is not a one-way process. The mission is intended to stimulate more Brazilian exports to Ohio as well as to attract investors, he said.

Perishable agricultural products are the primary exports from South America to Ohio - including beef, fruit, and soybeans from Argentina, fruit from Brazil, and fruits and seafood from Chile.

Mr. Taft is promoting a plan to ship perishable goods from South America to Toledo, with the plane back to South America carrying U.S. auto parts, electronics, and other goods.

Toledo is home to Dana Corp., which supplies the automotive industry with car parts and has several plants in South America, including Brazil.

Mr. Taft said he is most impressed with how much Brazil and the United States have in common.

“There are a lot of similarities such as settlement, history, land mass, diversity of the origin of its population, etc.,” the governor said.

He said that while Ohio has a Brazilian sister state, Parana, the United States and Brazil could be sister countries.

The Ohio delegation will remain in Sao Paulo until tomorrow, meeting with several local and multinational companies, before making its way to Parana to reaffirm relations established in 1986.

Southern based-Parana is one of the fastest-growing automotive regions in Brazil and has attracted attention from Toledo.

The trade mission will visit several companies in Sao Paulo.

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