In Portugal, Brazil’s Lula tries to lure back foreign investors

By Catarina Demony and Gabriel Araujo

LISBON (Reuters) – Trying to lure back wary foreign investors, Brazil’s President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva vowed on Monday to restore stability and credibility, inviting Portuguese businesses and others to build partnerships with his country’s companies.

“Brazil is ready to go back to being a big country,” Lula told business leaders in the northern Portuguese city of Matosinhos. “Brazil is ready to go back to being attractive.”

Leftist Lula arrived in Portugal on Friday for a five-day visit, his first to Europe since taking office as president, and is trying to quell investors’ concerns over his ambitious social spending goals.

At the event in Matosinhos, also attended by Portugal’s Prime Minister Antonio Costa and other government officials, Lula said that to attract foreign capital, Brazil needed political, social and judicial stability.

“Without that, no investor will put money in another country,” he said, criticising former President Jair Bolsonaro for keeping Brazil “isolated from the world” during his four years in office.

He said there were opportunities for foreign investment in various sectors, including renewable energy projects, and said Brazil was looking for partnerships, highlighting the deal between Brazilian planemaker Embraer and Portuguese aerospace company OGMA to build NATO-approved aircraft.

Both countries’ trade and investment agencies, Portugal’s AICEP and Brazil’s APEX, signed a cooperation agreement.

Lula reiterated criticism of Brazil’s interest rate levels, saying that local lending costs were excessively high.

“The benchmark rate is at 13.75% now, and nobody borrows money at 13.75%,” Lula said.

    Lula and other politicians have pressured the independent central bank to lower rates from their current six-year high but the bank’s governor, Roberto Campos Neto, has defended its actions as technical, “not political”.

Lula also reiterated that his administration would not sell public companies.

“Brazil in the last six years sold a lot of public assets not to build other assets but just to pay interest on the public debt,” Lula added, particularly criticising the privatisation of power firm Eletrobras.    Latin America’s largest utility, Eletrobras, was privatised in June 2022 by the Bolsonaro administration, when the government diluted its then-controlling stake in the firm in a $6.9 billion share offering.

(Reporting by Catarina Demony in Lisbon; Additional reporting by Gabriel Araujo and Eduardo Simoes; Editing by Bernadette Baum)