Tuesday, September 28, 2010

The Shadow of Lula

It is remarkable to see the accolades being heaped on retiring Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva. Who would have believed this would be the case eight years ago.

Even the Financial Times has as its lead editorial “Brazil Dazzles Global Finance” (See http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/9de004be-ca68-11df-a860-00144feab49a.html). “Brazilian finance will be felt increasingly in international centers.” Brazil’s development bank, with a balance sheet larger than the World Bank, has chosen London as its main foreign office.

Brazil is a player. Statements like this cannot be put in a future tense any more like “Brazil wants to be a player in the world.”

And, the Brazilian Finance Minister Guido Mantega gained global headlines this morning with his comments about “a trade war and an exchange rate war.” Brazil has one of the stronger currencies in the world right now. The value of the dollar has fallen by about 25% relative to the
Brazilian real since the beginning of last year.

Brazil is now listened to around the world.

This is just one more indication of how the world has changed.

Every day, we, particularly in the United States, must remember that things are different now. Although the United States is still a very powerful nation, quite a few other countries have increased significantly in power so that the relative position of the United States is not the same as it once was.

And, there are other hints. JPMorgan Chase has reorganized so that it can become more of an international force. Economically, it cannot just rely on its position in the slow growing United States economy anymore.

We also see the changes in leadership in the United States. For example, the bank that formerly was the largest bank in the United States has someone born in India as its CEO, Vikram Pandit, who was brought into this position to save Citigroup and turn it around.

And what about the biggest, most aggressive investment bank (now a bank holding company) in the United States, Goldman Sachs. There are rumors that a Canadian by birth, someone who has been Goldman’s Asian chief, Michael Evans, is playing a larger part in the management of the company and might even be a successor to Lloyd Blankfein, the current chief executive. Also, Mr. Evans does not have a back ground in Goldman’s trading unit, a place many other Goldman Sachs’ leaders have come from.

The world is open. People and products and services are flowing more easily from country to country.

We still see individuals that resist this fact.

It is hard to believe that this growing global integration can be ignored by investors, governments, and financial institutions, manufacturing concerns, and others who want to perform well in these times.

Well done Mr. Lula!

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