April 26, 2017 / 8:44 PM / 2 years ago

Exclusive: Brazil eyes OECD membership to woo investors after recession - sources

BRASILIA (Reuters) - Brazil could decide to join the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) as soon as next month, officials told Reuters, as President Michel Temer seeks its seal of approval for reforms to Latin America’s largest economy. 

Temer’s intention to join the Paris-based think tank is his latest effort to strengthen ties with Western developed nations after previous Brazilian governments prioritized relations with developing peers.

The OECD advises its 35 members of mostly rich countries and is considered a key influencer in the world’s economic architecture.

The final decision, however, hinges on a review of the entry requirements that could mean legislative changes to comply with OECD tax and transparency rules, said one official who asked for anonymity because the matter is not public.

An initial result of the review is expected for May 15.

The official and three other sources said Temer hopes the OECD’s imprimatur will attract foreign investment to an economy struggling to pull out of its worst recession ever.

“Membership will guarantee investors that Brazil is seeking market-friendly policies,” said another official, adding that the final decision will also depend on the OECD willingness to speed up membership approval.

If approved by the OECD Council, Brazil would become the biggest emerging market member of the group and the third from Latin America after Mexico and Chile.

Neighboring Colombia has been in membership talks with the OECD since 2013.

Although the membership process usually takes years, OECD Secretary-General Angel Gurria has signaled the group could fast-track the accession of key partners, including Brazil, China, South Africa, India and Indonesia.

A OECD spokesperson said decisions about the approval time frame are made by the OECD Council after a formal request is submitted.

Temer’s press office did not respond to emails seeking comments. The finance ministry declined to comment.

Temer, in office for just over a year following the impeachment of leftist President Dilma Rousseff, is pursuing unpopular austerity reforms to coax back investors.

“This is a step that seeks to have Brazil gain a seal of approval largely meant to make the country more attractive to foreign investors,” Oliver Stuenkel, professor of international relations at Sao Paulo-based think tank FGV.

Still, the road for approval may not be an easy one for Brazil.

In a closed economy used to government intervention, bureaucrats have for years resisted changing tax rules as well as transparency policies to comply with OECD standards.

“Joining the OECD is not simple or easy,” said Welber Barral, Brazil’s international trade secretary from 2007 to 2011. “Changes to tax regulation and governance would face tough resistance from Brazil’s powerful bureaucracy.”

Reporting by Alonso Soto; Editing by Daniel Flynn and Marguerita Choy

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