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On the Record

Strengthening Linkages Between U.S. and Brazilian Cities and Metros: The Global Cities Initiative’s Week in São Paulo

During the last week of November, the Brookings Metropolitan Policy Program brought together a delegation of more than 40 metropolitan leaders and experts in São Paulo, Brazil for the inaugural global convening of the Global Cities Initiative (GCI), a joint project of the Brookings Institution and JPMorgan Chase.

The Global Cities Initiative is a five-year effort to help city and metropolitan leaders in the United States and throughout the world become more globally fluent, learn new strategies for expanding their global economic reach, and connect with like-minded leaders. Supported by original research and trend analysis from Brookings, and sustained through domestic and global forums convened each year, GCI provides leaders with opportunities to explore the distinctive economic strengths of U.S. and global metropolitan areas, and to form new relationships that promote mutual trade, investment, and economic growth.

São Paulo was selected as the first GCI city outside the U.S. for obvious reasons. Brazil, soon to be the world’s 5th largest economy, has become an indispensable player on the global stage. And despite continued barriers, the economic and social ties between the U.S. and Brazil continue to grow.  Trade is booming.  Investment is up.  Tourism and business travel have never been higher.

These expanding international flows of goods, capital, and people, as argued in Brookings’ recently released paper Metro Trade, come to ground in major metropolitan areas, the 21st century engines of the global economy. As Brookings’ new Global MetroMonitor showcases, the 300 largest city and metropolitan economies house a little under one fifth of global population but generate nearly half its total output. The same holds true in Brazil and the United States. A second new report released in São Paulo, Metro Brazil, finds that 13 Brazilian metropolitan areas belong to this “300 club”; they are home to one-third of national population but generate 56 percent of national GDP. Similarly, the U.S. houses 76 of these metropolitan areas, which account for 61 percent of national population and 68 percent of total GDP.  With this collective economic power, cities are also centers of global trade and investment. The top 13 Brazilian metros and top 76 U.S. metros each account for 77 percent of greenfield foreign direct investment projects, move over 60 percent of waterborne trade, and shuttle over 80 percent of air passengers.

Against this backdrop, the Global Cities Initiative, led by Brookings Vice President and GCI Director Bruce Katz and former Chicago Mayor and GCI Chairman Richard M. Daley, brought together business, government, civic, and university leaders from Buffalo, Chicago, Columbus, Denver, Houston, Los Angeles, Miami, Portland, and San Diego with their counterparts from the São Paulo region to explore a critical shared question: how can our cities work together to advance national and global prosperity?

Throughout the week, a series of workshops, tours, and briefings allowed U.S. and Brazilian leaders to link with one another to boost trade and investment – through briefings by private sector leaders such as JPMorgan Chase’s Aod Cunha on Brazil’s economy, key trading partners, and areas for growth; a tour and discussion of freight and logistics at the Port of Santos, Latin America’s busiest port; and a conversation about strategies to overcome the “Brazil cost”, a set of economic inefficiencies foreign firms must understand  to do business in Brazil.

At the same time, for cities to compete globally they must learn from one another on shared challenges around urbanization, governance, and metropolitan growth. In that spirit, leaders from an array of U.S. cities and regions participated in a day of workshops during which they imparted their experiences in metropolitan development and economic growth strategies that might hold lessons for the city and state of São Paulo. Michael Sacks of World Business Chicago and Brad Whitehead from the Northeast Ohio’s Fund for Our Economic Future presented on metropolitan business planning, a strategy that engages private, public, and other civic actors in charting and executing a strategic vision for a metropolitan economy. In turn, in a presentation by State Secretariat for Metropolitan Development Edson Aparecido, American metro leaders were challenged and inspired by the “macro-metro” planning that is linking four metro areas in São Paulo state (Baixada Santista, Campinas, Paraiba Valley, and São Paulo) and helping to position a diverse, integrated, 30 million-person region on the global stage.

Prior to the workshops, JPMorgan Chase Chairman and CEO Jamie Dimon delivered remarks to the delegation regarding his firm’s interest and investment in global cities, which Metro’s Alan Berube captured in his blog post, São Paulo and U.S. Metros Link and Learn Together.”

The week in São Paulo culminated with the Global Cities Initiative’s inaugural global public forum, entitled “Why Metros Matter to Global Trade & Investment: Strengthening Linkages between U.S. & Brazilian Cities, and hosted by the Center for Public Leadership and its President, Luiz Felipe d’Avila.  With São Paulo Mayor-elect Fernando Haddad in the audience, Bruce Katz delivered remarks entitled, “The Metropolitan Future of Brazil and the United States,” that argued for metropolitan areas to recognize their role as the engines of national economies and the centers for international trade by shaping their own economic destiny.

Following Katz’s presentation, a chorus of business, civic and local, state, and federal government leaders – including former President Fernando Henrique Cardoso, São Paulo Governor Geraldo Alckmin, Gerdau S.A. Chairman and President Jorge Gerdau, former Chicago Mayor and GCI Chairman Richard M. Daley, and Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa – echoed that, whether it’s São Paulo or Chicago, to compete internationally cities need to focus on both the local and global. Metropolitan leaders must implement smart policies that improve the local inputs that matter – infrastructure, education, innovation, and sound governance – in ways that allow their cities to compete successfully in global markets for people, capital, firms, goods and services.  


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