2018 Economic Outlook Brazil: Foreign Policy

This is the third chapter of the series of posts on the “2018 Economic Outlook Brazil” that is based on the Presidential Message delivered to the Brazilian National Congress in February, 2018 by President Temer. The official document, in its entirety, advises on the key national policies divided into five central pillars: Economy, Infrastructure, Social, Foreign Affairs and Public Administration.

Read below the policy highlights on Foreign Policy. The other posts are Regulated Markets and Structural Reforms.

1. Introduction

In a global scenario trending towards nationalism, Brazil continues to push forward a diplomacy of universalism by promoting multilateral dialogue and integration. Its foreign policy has been implemented towards the interests of economic recovery, job creation, border security and the promotion of welfare.

During the year of 2017, the Brazilian Government continued to give expression to the universalist vocation of its Foreign Policy. Beyond Latin America and the Caribbean, the Brazilian government tried to deepen its diplomatic relations with European countries, North America, Asia Africa and the Middle East. In 2017, Michel Temer visited China (during the BRICS summit), Norway, Portugal and Russia. He also participated in the meetings of G-20 in Hamburg, Mercosur in Mendoza, the UN General Assembly in New York and the WTO Ministerial Conference in Buenos Aires.

Its participation in multilateral institutions is also to be highlighted, having representatives working for the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, International Court of Justice and the International Law Commission. Brazil is also in the Presidency of the World Trade Organization.

2. Migration and Refugee Crisis

In 2017, the new Migration Law entered into force, establishing the guidelines for the Brazilian migration policy through which the country has acted in the UN negotiations for a Global Compact on Migrations. The government is also working on improving its mechanisms for granting refuge. Aiming to facilitate the instructions on the process of request for refuge, an electronic ordering system is under development (Sisconare), which will give greater speed, reliability and security to the processes. A working group was also established for the revision of the resolutions of the National Refugee Council (Conare).

3. China

In 2017, China remained Brazil’s main trading partner, and an important source of investment. During the Presidential visit to China, bilateral agreements were signed in the areas of tourism, health and consumer product supervision. The bilateral cooperation also advanced through the launch of the Fund for Brazil-China Cooperation for the Expansion of Productive Capacity.

4. Africa

The African continent is a permanent priority to the Brazilian Foreign Policy. During the UN Assembly, in September, President Temer met with the President of Egypt, Mr. Abdel Fattah Al-Sissi, to discuss economic opportunities for both countries. In the same month, the Mercosur-Egypt free trade agreement entered into force. Egypt is the main destination of Brazilian exports to Africa.

In 2017, the Brazilian Foreign Minister visited Namibia, Botswana, Malawi, Mozambique, south Africa, Sao Tome and Principe, Ghana, Nigeria, Côte d’Ivoire and Benin. During these visitations, cooperation agreements were signed in areas such as visa facilitation, social security, and air transportation, reiterating the country’s commitment to socio-economic development and the consolidation of peace and democracy in West Africa.

5. BRICS

Within BRICS, progress was made towards the consolidation of the New Development Bank (NDB) with the approval of the 2017 – 2021 General strategy, which included the bank’s second batch of loans and the opening of its first regional office in South Africa. In its 2017 summit, BRICS signed the Plan of Action for Economic and Trade cooperation and the Customs Cooperation Strategy.

6. Middle East

Brazilian Diplomacy is also attentive to the geopolitical situation of the Middle East. It defends the two-State solution to the Israel and Palestine conflicts, based on International Law and opposing to the illegal construction of Israeli settlements in Palestine. President Temer met separately, in New York, with the Israeli Prime Minister and the President of Palestine.

In May 2017, the Brazilian Minister of Agriculture, Livestock and Supply visited Saudi Arabia, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates and Kwait, helping to maintain the Brazilian beef exports. To attract investments, the Brazilian government went on a mission to Saudi Arabia, Bahrein, Kwait and Qatar.

7. Regional Integration

In 2017, Brazil prioritized advances in economic-trade relations and in the areas of border cooperation, physical integration and the fight against transnational crimes within the Latin America and Caribbean region. In commitment to the Ushuaia Protocol, members of Mercosur voted on the indefinite suspension of Venezuela from participation in the bloc. In articulation with other 11 countries in the “Lima Group”, Brazil seeks to favor the return of democracy in Venezuela. Internally, an inter-ministerial group was designed to coordinate the reception of the Venezuelan migratory flow in the Northern region of Brazil. A Resolution of the National Immigration Council made it possible to grant temporary residence to Venezuelan nationals for two years.

In April, the Protocol of Cooperation and Facilitation of Investments of Mercosur was signed, and in December, the block agreed on the Protocol for Public Procurement. A free trade agreement started to be negotiated with the European Free Trade Association (EFTA), formed by Switzerland, Norway, Ireland and Liechtenstein. The negotiations for an FTA with the European Union are still under negotiations.

Brazil has also maintained an active participation in the Amazon Cooperation Treaty Organization (ACTO), especially in the illegal deforestation monitoring program, in the projects for water resources management and forest firefighting in the Amazon basin.

8. Foreign Trade

The results of the Brazilian foreign trade have contributed to the return to growth, as the country recorded a surplus of USD 67 billion in 2017. Both exports and imports recovered some of the dynamism lost during the crisis. In May, Brazil requested access to the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OCDE) and, in attempt to speed operational processes, began the implementation of the Digital Origin Certificates and the Consolidated Portal for Trade.

It is estimated the start of production and exporting by companies located at the ZPE in Ceará (Export Processing Zone) has contributed to leverage the state economy. Other ZPEs are already in advanced stages of implementation in the states of Piauí and Mato Grosso.

Source: Presidential Message to Congress 2018 (adapted translation)

Brazilian government reduces import tariffs on ICT and capital goods

The Brazilian Foreign Trade Chamber (CAMEX) issued Resolutions No. 14 and 15/2018, reducing to zero percent the import tax on capital goods (780 items) and computer and telecommunications goods (50 items). The tariff reductions that entered into force on February 28th under the Brazilian Ex-tarifário regime are temporary and will be in place until December 31st, 2019 as established by the new resolutions.

The Brazilian Ex-tarifário regime consists of the temporary reduction of the tax on imports of goods when there is no equivalent national production. The special customs regime is intended to promote a reduction in the cost of investments and to produce a multiplier effect on employment and income on differentiated segments of the national economy. Camex Resolution No. 66/2014 established the rules for the concession of the Ex-tarifário regime.

2018 Economic Outlook Brazil: Regulated Markets

This is the second chapter of the series of posts on the “2018 Economic Outlook Brazil” that is based on the Presidential Message delivered to the Brazilian National Congress in February, 2018 by President Temer. The official document, in its entirety, advises on the key national policies divided into five central pillars: Economy, Infrastructure, Social, Foreign Affairs and Public Administration.

Read below the policy highlights on Regulated Markets. The other posts are Structural Reforms and Foreign Policy.

1. Oil & Gas

Law No. 13.586 of December 28, 2017 was part of a broad set of measures that altered the regulatory framework for the oil sector. The act aimed to increase competition in the exploitation of reserves and thereby increase the income absorbed by taxpayers in the form of tributes, royalties, special participations, signature bonuses or oil surplus.

Decree No. 9.128 of 2017 extended the benefits of Repetro until 2040. This is a special customs regime for importing and exporting goods for research and drilling activities of oil and natural gas. This regime has been in place since 1999 and aims to equate the taxation of the oil sector in Brazil with the practices of other producing countries.

Resolution No. 17/2017 from the National Council for Energy Policy (CNPE) established the Petroleum and Natural Gas Exploitation and Production Policy, which defines the guidelines for policy implementation for the planning and realization of public bids. Resolution 10/2017 from CNPE establishes the schedule for the bidding rounds of blocks and fields for oil & gas exploitation and production for the biennium 2018-2019.

There was a change in the clause of Research, Development and Innovation of the Programme for the Competitiveness of the Productive Chain, Development and Improvement of Suppliers of the Petroleum and Natural Gas Sector (Pedefor, Decree No. 8.637 of 2016): A percentage of 30% to 40% of eligible expenditure in PD&I should be destined to universities or research centers; 30% to 40% for programs, and the remainder to qualified activities defined by the concession itself.

2. Mining

Throughout 2017, the Brazilian government reviewed the legislation of the mineral sector, with the objective of restoring the credibility and legal certainty demanded by the investors. Provisional Measure No. 789 (converted into Law No. 13.540/2017) provides for the Financial Compensation for the Exploration of Mineral Resources (CFEM); Provisional Measure No. 790, amends the Mining Code (Decree-Law no. 227/1967); and Provisional Measure No. 791 (converted into Law 13.575/2017) creates the National Mining Agency (ANM) for the regulation of the mineral sector, substituting the former National Department of Mineral Production (DNPM).

3. Electricity

The Brazilian government issued new legislation in 2017 to support and encourage the process of privatization. This is the case of Decree No. 9.192/2017, which regulates the bidding process and the respective transfer of share control of electricity distribution companies controlled by Eletrobras. Provisional Measure No. 814/201 gives incentives for the transfer of share control and includes Eletrobras in the National Program for Privatization.

4. Basic Sanitation

Population in Brazil still faces serious problems related to access to basic sanitation services, despite advances promoted by the last legislation revision enacted by Law 11.445/2007. There are deficiencies mainly in the water supply and treatment and sewage collection and treatment services.

There is a general understanding that it is necessary to increase legal certainty aiming at investment expansion. As per current regulatory framework, the country has more than 50 regulating agencies in the sector, with municipal, regional and statewide outreach. This multiplicity of actors contributes to the context of low investments due to the intertwined complexity of rules. The government is considering changes in Law 9.984/2000 in order to assign to the National Water Agency (ANA) new competences for the coordination of services in basic sanitation.

5. Telecommunications

The General Telecommunications Law No. 9.472/1997 was published two decades ago and, given the rapid technological innovations in the sector, a regulatory reform is urgently necessary, since the concession of fixed telephony becomes less attractive in relation to emerging broadband technologies. The Draft Bill PLC 79/2016 that is under discussion in the Federal Senate is proposing legislation reform in order to reverse the obligation of investment in fixed telephony in favor to investments in broadband expansion.

Source: Presidential Message to Congress 2018 (adapted translation)

2018 Economic Outlook Brazil: Structural Reforms

This is the second chapter of the series of posts on the “2018 Economic Outlook Brazil” that is based on the Presidential Message delivered to the Brazilian National Congress in February, 2018 by President Temer. The official document, in its entirety, advises on the key national policies divided into five central pillars: Economy, Infrastructure, Social, Foreign Affairs and Public Administration.

Read below the policy highlights on Structural Reforms. The other posts are Regulated Markets and Foreign Policy.

1. Economic Outlook

The year 2017 presented the end of the longest economic recession ever recorded in the Brazilian history. The Gross Domestic Product (GDP) is increasing, inflation has slowed and unemployment and interest rates dropped. The year ended with an inflation rate of 2.95% p.y. (Extended National Consumer Price Index, or IPCA for Portuguese) and with the basic interest rate of 7% p.y. (Selic – Sistema Especial de Liquidação e de Custódia), the lowest since 2002.

Desempenho PIB 2017

2. Cash Withdraws From Severance Funds

Cash withdraw measures adopted in 2017, from public funds, contributed to the reduction of household debt and the expansion of consumption. The Federal Government facilitated access to the FGTS accounts (Guarantee Fund for Length of Service) of 26 million beneficiaries, which injected R$ 44 billion in the economy, along with the anticipation of R$ 2,2 billion in withdraws from 1,6 million retiring beneficiaries of the PIS/Pasep accounts (Social Integration Program and Heritage Formation Program for Public Servers).

3. Fiscal Reform

The Constitutional Amendment No. 95 of December 15, 2016 was responsible for creating the new Fiscal Regime, which limited public spending growth, modified the fiscal policy and, along with other proposals related to public accounts, reduced the uncertainties regarding fiscal policy conduct in the country.

4. Regime for the Fiscal Recovery of States

The Complementary Law No. 159 of May 19, 2017 established the Fiscal Recovery Regime (Regime de Recuperação Fiscal – RRF), seeking to enable the recovery and solvency of states suffering from serious financial crises. In general terms, when adopting the RRF, both State and Union recognize the financial imbalance of the State and specify the adjustment measures, with respective impacts and deadlines, as well as the sources of funding that will be used in the period of the recovery plan.

5. Modernization of Labor Laws

The labor market also presented significant changes and signs of mild recovery. The modernization of the labor laws, a reform approved in July 2017, resulted in the Law No. 13.467/2017, which updated the Consolidated Labor Laws (CLT) framework. The new structure reduces uncertainties and allows greater autonomy for workers and employers to enter into agreements. With the newly adopted legal framework, the government expects to reduce informality in employment and increase job posts and wages.

6. Social Security Reform

In 2017, Social Security registered a record deficit of R$ 268.7 billion. The National Congress is currently debating over its Social Security Reform as an essential component of the reform package for economic recovery, aimed at balancing the public social pension accounts.

The demographic dynamics of the country is imposing significant challenges on policy-making, and in the case of social security, the impacts are direct. Brazil is experiencing an increase in life expectancy, and consequently, in the amount and duration of payments of the security benefits. Added to this is the decrease of reproduction rates, which alters the proportion of active individuals in the job market. This is a relevant fact because the Brazilian social security system is based on simple allocation, being that active workers pay the benefits for those who have withdrawn from the labor market. In 1980, there were 13 adults for each elderly person. Today, there are nine adults for each elderly person. The demographic bonus for federal and state public servers is in an even more critical condition: 1,2 and 1,4 active worker for each beneficiary, respectively.

7. Long Term Rate for Public Financing

The new Long Term Rate (Taxa de Longo Prazo – TLP), established by Law No. 13.483 of September 21, 2017 replaced its former equivalent, as the basis for compensation on the main sources of long-term financing in Brazil. The new TLP will remunerate these financings when applied by the official credit operators contracted from January 2018 onwards. The new rate is composed by the variation of the National Consumer Price Index (Índice Nacional de Preços ao Consumidor Amplo – IPCA) and by a monthly prefixed interest rate that is based on the earnings of the National Treasury Notes – Series (NTN-B) for a five-year period. This term reflects the average time for the BNDES (National Bank for Economic and Social Development) loans that use such rate as a basis for compensation.

Source: Presidential Message to Congress 2018 (adapted translation)

GDP growth projected at 2,2% for 2018 in Brazil, reports Central Bank

The Economic Policy Division for the Brazilian’s Central Bank has released its quarterly inflation report[i], projecting a 2,2% GDP growth for 2018. This is certainly good news, specially coming from a two-year recession and 0,7% in 2017.

The executive summary states that the set of reported indicators of economic activity is consistent with a gradual recovery of economic activity. GDP grew for the second consecutive quarter in the second quarter of 2017, which, together with high-frequency sectoral indicators, led to upward revisions in the projections for this year’s GDP growth. Also, highlighting the positive performance of the services sector, which benefited from continued recovery in retail sales, and significant expansion of household consumption, after nine quartterly drops (there is evidence that the withdraws from FGTS accounts – worker’s social security deposits – contributed to the increase in consumption).

Unempolyment rate has also receded in the quarter ending in July, with net creation of 80 thousand formal Jobs, in comparison with net destruction of 258,4 thousand Jobs in the same period of 2016. Furthermore, the evolution of the country’s external transactions remained favorable in the quarter ending in July, when the current account posted a historically low deficit, especially due to the trade surplus recorded in the period.

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[i] An executive summary version of the Inflation Report – September/2017 is available in English, at the official Central Bank’s page.