Brazil bumps Britain to become world's sixth largest economy

Thanks in part to soybeans and iron ore, cars, and coffee, Brazil has overtaken Britain as the world's sixth largest economy - though there are some clouds on the horizon.

Paulo Whitaker/Reuters
Workers harvest soybeans at a farm in Tangara da Serra, Mato Grosso state in western Brazil, March 5, 2009. Brazil's economy overtook Britain's to become the sixth largest world economy in part because of their production of soybeans, iron ore, cars, and coffee.

Brazil’s economy has surpassed that of Britain, this year becoming the globe’s six largest, part of a slow but clear rebalancing of global economic power, the Guardian reports.

Douglas McWilliams, the head of the Center for Economics and Business Research (CEBR), which put out the analysis, told the British newspaper:

"Brazil has beaten the European countries at soccer for a long time, but beating them at economics is a new phenomenon. Our world economic league table shows how the economic map is changing, with Asian countries and commodity-producing economies climbing up the league while we in Europe fall back."

Brazil’s booming economy has been Latin America’s golden story for the past few years. Brazil is home to mega-companies Petrobras, Vale, and Embraer. It has turned into a commodities powerhouse. Coupled with its mining, manufacturing, and services sectors, Brazil is now the largest economy of the region.

It is a major exporter of soybeans and iron ore, cars, and coffee. It has increasingly expanded trade with China, now its largest exporting partner ahead of the US. Its macroeconomic stability – thanks to continuity across three presidencies in the past two decades, while focusing on the empowerment of the poor to diminish stubborn inequality – has contributed to a consumer spending frenzy among its 200 million inhabitants.

The Monitor looked at three of these components of  growth – exploring its mineral wealth, its transformation as an agricultural powerhouse, and its efforts in reducing poverty – in this three-part series from 2008.

But the UN Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC) recently warned of some trouble spots ahead in the region. Overall, the regional economy grew by 4.3 percent in 2011, and it is forecast to slow slightly to 3.7 percent next year.

Among the reasons for a regional slowdown, the group cites "measures applied particularly in Brazil to reduce domestic demand and prevent overheating as a result of its substantial growth in 2010."

Brazil's economy grew by 2.9 percent this year, down from 7.5 percent the year before.  The slowdown is in part because of a lagging consumer demand globally, due to the ongoing European crisis. The industrial sector has lagged this year too, because of the strong local currency. And high inflation is getting in the way of efforts to further tackle poverty (Brazil has set high goals, as we reported recently here).

The economy is only expected to grow by 3.5 percent next year. But this may all be temporary, as CEBR forecasts that in the next ten years, Brazil will still hold the number six spot, as the BBC shows in a chart looking at the world's top economies in 2020.

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