September 23, 2011 / 11:21 PM / 8 years ago

Learn from Brazil, billionaire Batista tells U.S.

* Brazil-style content rules could spur U.S. growth

* Batista says executives not aligned with shareholders

* Brazil economy growing as U.S., Europe face slowdown

By Brian Ellsworth and Matt Daily

NEW YORK, Sept 23 (Reuters) - Brazil’s richest man has a message for a America — follow our lead.

The United States should require more of the goods that Americans consume to be produced domestically to spur job growth as Brazil has done, billionaire industrial magnate Eike Batista told Reuters in an interview on Friday.

Brazil’s so-called “local content” regulations are helping to expand the country’s shipbuilding and oil services sectors, Batista said. He said firms such as retailing giant Wal-Mart Stores Inc (WMT.N) should require Chinese suppliers to produce part of the products in the United States.

“I think you’d do great, you’d move factories back to America,” Batista said at Reuters headquarters. “If I was American, I’d be angry with Wal-Mart because what, 68, 70 percent of the products come from China?”

Batista said if products such as brooms that Wal-mart outsources to China were largely made in America, the highest costs for consumers would be offset by the wider benefits of creating local jobs.

He said America has stretched the limits of its economic model by focusing on short-term profit at the expense of broader societal needs and failing to align interests of company shareholders with that of management.

As Europe grapples with a debt crisis and the United States faces a possible slide into recession, Brazil’s booming commodities industries and strong domestic market are expected to drive economic growth of around 3.5 percent this year.

Brazil “could live in splendid isolation,” Batista said.

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Graphic of share performance r.reuters.com/myj83s Factbox about Batista's companies [ID:nS1E78J0IR]

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Batista, ranked No. 8 among the world’s richest people by Forbes, is controlling shareholder of EBX, whose companies operate in energy, mining and shipbuilding.

Local content rules may not create globally competitive industries immediately and costs may be high in the short-term. But that is offset by long-term benefits to growth, Batista said.

“You employ a lot of people — it’s taxes, it’s job creation and job preservation,” he added.

The United States has also lost economic ground to countries such as Brazil or Germany because its best and brightest have been flocking into jobs in finance, rather than engineering or research and development, Batista said.

Many American companies have suffered from weak leadership that seeks to copy what others have done rather than taking risks and responding to changes. Corporate executives are often focused on making their bonuses rather than innovating.

“There is a disconnect in America, I feel, with the lack of alignment of interests,” he said, adding that automaker GM’s board of directors allowed the company to get off course.

“Jesus, the guys were running the thing into the ground for 10 years. Did nobody see that?” (Editing by Andre Grenon)

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