BRAZIL HOPES BUSH PLAN ADDS SHINE TO SHOE TRADE

BRAZIL HOPES BUSH PLAN ADDS SHINE TO SHOE TRADE

Brazilian shoe exporters are hoping that President Bush's economic revitalization measures will mean more purchases of shoes in the United States this year.

To offset lackluster prospects of a domestic market hopelessly mired in recession, Brazilian footwear manufacturers hope to export a record $1.5 billion this year."The U.S. recession is ending, and we're counting on the additional contribution to consumption that an election year always has in that country," said Horst Volk, president of shoe manufacturer Calcados Ortope SA and of the Brazilian association of footwear industries, known as Abicalcados.

Based on that optimistic outlook for the U.S. economy, plus a few other political considerations, U.S. agents for Brazilian manufacturers will be looking for significantly increased orders for Brazilian shoes during the annual footwear fair Feb. 10 to 12 in New York City, Mr. Volk told The Journal of Commerce in a telephone interview from his company office in Porto Alegre.

There is more optimism than design in that $1.5 billion export goal, however.

U.S. consumers ordinarily absorb as much as 80 percent of Brazilian shoe exports. Last year they walked off with 103 million pairs, 77 percent of a to- tal $1,248 million worth of foreign sales.

Now the Brazilians are simply counting on the U.S. economic revival, election year spending and those other political considerations to help boost export volume back to its 1989 peak of 170 million pairs.

That heyday volume sold at an average $7.70 a pair. Rising Brazilian production costs have pushed the average now to $11.10 a pair.

So if export volume returned to 170 million pairs, the result would be receipts of $1.5 billion, he said.

Brazil also is counting on what Mr. Volk called "the China factor" to keep another major competitor for the U.S. market at bay during this election year.

In recent years, Brazilian footwear lost a big slice of the U.S. low-cost market to Chinese shoes in the $4-to-$6-a-pair price range.

Although Washington has shelved proposals for punitive trade measures against Beijing, the continued threat of a surcharge on Chinese exports should discourage their increase this year and strengthen Brazil's position in the low price category, said Mr. Volk.