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March 27, 2017

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Brazil to take further steps in fight against flood of imports

SAO PAULO -- Brazil will take new steps to protect local industries from a strong exchange rate, including an investigation of Chinese imports that come in improperly through other countries, its trade minister told Reuters on Friday.

Fernando Pimentel said the probe into the so-called "triangulation" of goods would be the first of its kind in Brazil. The first case will involve blankets from China that were routed to Brazil through Paraguay and Uruguay, with further investigations expected in coming months, he said.

The measures come as Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff faces enormous pressure from manufacturers, a key constituency, to slow an avalanche of imports from abroad, especially China.

Brazil's currency is trading near decade-long highs, thanks to its booming economy and a flood of capital from the developed world.

Pimentel will lead a group of officials from Brazil's revenue service and trade ministry to monitor imports, a step he said will substantially improve Brazil's ability to identify dumping and other unfair trade practices. Some Brazilian business leaders have clamored for such a move for months.

The measures, plus other recent steps including new barriers to slow down auto imports, have raised concerns of a new wave of protectionism in South America, although Pimentel firmly ruled that out.

Pimentel said the auto measures in particular were not targeted at any specific country — including Argentina, which has strongly protested the move.

Brazil's currency has appreciated about 50 percent since 2009 and has been called the world's most overvalued major currency by Goldman Sachs. Its economy is also struggling with other signs of possible overheating, including inflation just beyond its target range at 6.51 percent on an annual basis.

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