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This is an audio transcript of the FT News Briefing podcast episode: Brazil’s bullish finance minister

Marc Filippino
Good morning from the Financial Times. Today is Friday, December 3rd. And this is your FT News Briefing.

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OPEC will open the spigots after a US charm offensive. Brexit troubles are mucking up a transatlantic trade deal, and Brazil is in a technical recession, but its finance minister is unruffled.

Paulo Guedes
I think that we are gonna surprise the world again.

Marc Filippino
Paulo Guedes spoke to our Latin America editor, Michael Stott. Michael will tell us more about the conversation. I’m Marc Filippino, and here’s the news you need to start your day.

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Marc Filippino
Saudi Arabia and other OPEC+ members agreed to keep increasing crude supply by 400,000 barrels a day. This was a surprise to traders. They’d been expecting the oil group to pause production increases in order to prop up prices. Analysts call yesterday’s move a win for the US. The White House has been on a diplomatic offensive to try and charm the Saudis as part of US efforts to bring down gas prices. Brent crude oil prices initially fell on the news, but ended the trading day slightly higher at about $69 a barrel.

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Marc Filippino
The US has told the UK it is delaying plans to remove Trump-era tariffs on British steel and aluminium. Washington is doing this due to concerns that London might change Brexit trading rules. London has threatened to override parts of the deal it signed last year because it’s not happy with some parts of it. The US and the EU have pressured the UK not to do it. The FT’s US trade correspondent Aime Williams has more on what a delay in lifting the tariffs on UK metals means for the country.

Aime Williams
Look, it’s quite urgent for UK steel and to a lesser extent, aluminium manufacturers, because the US just did a deal with the EU, which will essentially see European manufacturers get relief from these tariffs from January the 1st. So that leaves British manufacturers at a pretty big competitive disadvantage, actually, and they’re really not very happy about that. And it also separately dents Britain’s pride a little bit, right? Because Britain did Brexit, made all these claims about how it was gonna be a swashbuckling, free trading global nation, striking these deals left, right and centre. And it actually can’t even persuade Washington to remove these Trump tariffs.

Marc Filippino
That’s the FT’s US trade correspondent, Aime Williams.

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Marc Filippino
Latin America’s largest economy has lost steam and is now in a technical correction. Brazil’s government reported third quarter data yesterday, and it showed a 0.1 per cent GDP contraction over the previous quarter. Despite the critics, the country’s finance minister remains bullish. Paulo Guedes told our Latin America editor Michael Stott about all the scepticism he faces.

Paulo Guedes
They say Brazil is gonna collapse, then. You are wrong. I don’t say anything else. This is going to take two or three years in the recession. I said it’s gonna be V-shaped and very fast. Then six months later, they were ashamed.

Marc Filippino
Michael joins me now to talk more about his conversation with Brazil’s finance minister. Michael, how do investors feel about them?

Michael Stott
So Marc, I think you could say that the market’s verdict on Paulo Guedes is mixed at this point. When he came in, he was seen as something of a guarantee that Jair Bolsonaro’s far-right administration would be friendly towards investors and pursue broadly sensible economic policies. Guedes has a background as an investment banker and economist, and is very committed to free market reforms. What we’ve seen, though, is the administration of Bolsonaro has progressed. It’s that Guedes’ influence on the president appears to be waning. So he secured a big reform to pensions that was approved earlier on and some privatisation of state assets in the first couple of years. But now, as we’re getting towards the end of the Bolsonaro administration, the president is turning towards more populist measures. And Guedes seems to be much less successful at stopping him.

Marc Filippino
And in the interview, he also disagreed with banks who see the recovery stalling next year. I’m gonna play a little bit of what he told you.

Paulo Guedes
I think that we are gonna surprise the world again. We surprised the first year with the Social Security reform. We surprised a second year when we dropped it less. We vaccinated fully almost 65 per cent of our population, more than the US, and 95 per cent first jab.

Marc Filippino
So Michael, how would you say Brazil handled the pandemic?

Michael Stott
Well, the Bolsonaro government was extremely controversial on the pandemic because the president himself played down the significance of the virus right from the beginning. However, the part of the response that nobody could query was the government’s emergency handouts, which was one of the biggest programmes of support anywhere in the developing world. And that did win plaudits from the likes of the World Bank, who said it did a lot to prevent poverty from rising. It did ensure a very rapid rebound this year, so Guedes is not wrong that the economy bounced back quickly. Where there’s a lot of disagreement is about what happens next year, so most economists see Brazil’s V turning into a W next year with a fresh recession coming up.

Marc Filippino
Do you think Guedes would support more government cash handouts before next year’s election?

Michael Stott
Well, Bolsonaro has put in place this minimum income guarantee programme, which has just started, which is gonna give R$400 to poorer families over the next year, which neatly covers the election period. It’s not clear whether there’ll be fresh programmes on top of that at this point, but that has been the sort of the main offering from the government, which has unsettled markets a little bit. As far as the Omicron variant specifically goes, Brazil had a very high death toll in coronavirus, largely because the virus spread very widely throughout the country, and Brazil was quite late to get going with its vaccination programme. That’s now actually changed, and one of the interesting untold stories is that there’s been a very rapid turnaround in the Brazil vaccination programme. So I think Brazil is in a much better position to face new variants and new strains than it might have been, say, six months before.

Marc Filippino
Michael Scott is the FT’s Latin America editor. Thanks as always, Michael.

Michael Stott
Thank you, Marc.

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Marc Filippino
The FT has announced its annual list of the world’s 25 most influential women, not just in the business world. It includes well-known names like US Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi and actress Scarlett Johansson. Now, usually the FT interviews the winners. But this year, we asked other notable women to write about them. So Billie Jean King wrote about tennis star Naomi Osaka and Citigroup CEO Jane Fraser wrote about GM’s chief Mary Barra, who also made the list. And there are names from all over the world.

Esther Bintliff
We knew we really wanted to feature a woman from Afghanistan because of the year that women have had there.

Marc Filippino
That’s Esther Bintliff. She’s the deputy editor of the FT Weekend magazine.

Esther Bintliff
And I decided to go to Malala Yousafzai, and I knew that she’d done a lot of advocacy work with women in Afghanistan. And basically, we just said to her, we want you to write about a woman, but do you want to nominate someone yourself rather than like with the other women? Often we, you know, we went to Christine Todd Whitman and we said, Liz Cheney is gonna be on the list. Would you be willing to write about her? But in this case, we actually asked Malala to choose somebody, and she was the person who brought the name Sotooda Forotan to us because she’d been in touch with her. And, you know, we were just so happy to have that and to be able to put a spotlight on this 15 year-old young woman who had spoken out about the rights of girls to have secondary education in Afghanistan.

Marc Filippino
Does this list say anything more broadly about where we are in terms of a moment? Was there anything that kind of unified these selections?

Esther Bintliff
I mean, you know, to be perfectly honest with you, I sometimes have mixed feelings about the existence of this list. I feel sometimes like I’m hoping that we will one day get to a point where we don’t have to have women of the year because, you know, women will just be on an equal footing and we’ll have the equality of opportunity around the world that they should. But we’re not there yet. And so in a way, you know, a lot of these women are really still carving out space in their fields and they’re speaking out for their rights and for other women too. And I think that we can sometimes take for granted, you know, in the UK and the US and Europe, the rights and the opportunities that we have as women today. But there are many places in the world where women are still hugely struggling. And so, you know, for as long as that’s happening, I think there will be a place for this kind of project.

Marc Filippino
Esther Bintliff is the deputy editor of the FT Weekend magazine. Thank you, Esther.

Esther Bintliff
Thank you.

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Marc Filippino
You can read more on all of these stories at FT.com. This has been your daily FT News Briefing. Make sure you check back next week for the latest business news. The FT News Briefing is produced by Fiona Symon and me, Marc Filippino. Our editor is Jess Smith. We had help this week from Joanna Kao, George Drake Jr., Gregory Meyer, Gavin Kallmann and Michael Bruning. Our global head of audio is Cheryl Brumley, and our theme song is by Metaphor Music.

This transcript has been automatically generated. If by any chance there is an error please send the details for a correction to: typo@ft.com. We will do our best to make the amendment as soon as possible.

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