The Economics of China’s New Era – Prof. Lin from Peking University

Prof. Justin Yifu Lin from Peking University delivered a lecture to a full auditorium at Goethe University (Frankfurt, Germany) on the new Era of the Chinese Economy, on this Jan. 21st. The event was made possible by IZO, the Interdicsciplinary Eastern Asian Studies, on its 10th year aniversary. Professor Lin acquired his PhD from the University of Chicago, and was the Chief Economist of the World Bank between the years of 2008 and 2012, currently working as a professor at Peking University.

Prof Lin started his talk by reminding us of how, 40 years ago, China started its reforms and openned up to the global economy. In 1978, China’s GDP per capita was 156 USD a year, according to the World Bank. Back then, 90% of its production was not linked to global production. However, nowadays, China is considered to be the second largest economy in the world, the largest exporter, and the largest trading country in the world. In 2018, the country reached 9.740 USD GDP per capita.

“China has entered a new era”, stated Prof. Lin, questioning about the implications of such transformation. According to him, people will have different interpretations, but his talk was to give voice to his own. He continued by acknowledging that the Chinese growth in recent decades was very impressive, especially if you compare it to other traditional economies in the Western world, that collapsed with the forces of the global crisis. Meanwhile, China mantained its stability and continues presenting itself as the only country in the world that did not experience a financial crisis in the last 40 years.

Prof. Lin considers this phenomenon a result of a pragmatic gradual reform in the Chinese economy, and he believes that these reforms will continue to be taking form on the long run, in order to maintain stability. He also believes that the secret behind the the country’s economic stability was its competitive advantage in specific sectors of the economy.

But China also paid some costs. The Chinese economy grew alongside with widespread corruption and income disparity in the country, and the Chinese people are not happy with these two factors, creating great social discontent.

But even after 40 years of continuous economic growth, China still has huge potential. According to him, developing countries have the “late comers advantages” – you can input technology by buying new technology from developed countries. This explains why China could achieve the high growth rates. A high income country already has the highest income, productivity and technology in the world. They would have to invent the new technologies. But new inventions require huge capital input, and are of high risk.

He mentioned that a study done in 2010 showed that there’s a potential for China to achieve 8-9% growth until 2028. Now it’s 2019, so there’s still 10 years of this potentil growth. But in a scenario where the global economy doesn not pick up from the 2008 crisis (which most countries have not yet recovered completely (US, Japan and countries in Europe), China can still mobilize resources internally and achieve 6% growth, continuing to be a major driver of economic growth in the world.

Closing his talk, Prof. Lin sounded very optimistic, mentioning that China serves as an inspiration for other developing countries. The experience of China demonstrates that once you have the right policy and ideals, a country can be changed. The country will have to continue deepening its reform, and though it has huge potential for growth, the external situation will be very challenging. The country will also have to show more responsibility for the world (i.e. developing international aid programs). Its growing economic significance implicates greater political significance as well.

Author’s note: My observation is that Prof. Lin failed to address the issues of environmental and health impact that the economic growth brought to its country. He was very enthusiastic about presenting China as this growing economic and political force at global scale, but his analysis – at the event – lacked some of the emerging reflections over the importance of performance indicators other than capital in a country’s development initiatives. This stagnant mindset seems to be leading to the same problems of traditional development policies, which can be only be accentuated by China’s worrying demographics.

[Podcast] The historical context of Corporate Diplomacy as an emerging practice

In this first podcast, I will be speaking about the historical context of Corporate Diplomacy as an emerging practice. This historical context is important because it will tell us how Corporate Diplomacy came to emerge as a practice in private organizations.

I am going to give you a few dates within a time frame so that you can be situated historically, which were taken from the United Nations` website. So, in 1865 and 1874 is when we saw the first international organizations to take form. But up until the Cold War approximately, we say in International Relations that we were living in an era of Realism, because we had a “realistic” international system: Nation States were the ony actors – the most powerful actors – who were able to negotiate their individual interests within the international system.

So, if that is pretty much how it was until the Cold War, so why is it exactly that I want to speak about international organizations? Because with the emergence of international organizations this scenario starts to shift a little. So, very lightly, in the beginning – 1865 and 1874 – with the first international organizations, which were the International Telecommunications Union and then the Universal Postal Union, we see these international movements where individual members started to get together to negotiate over particular subjects. Then we had the Treaty of Versailles in 1919 that became the League of Nations trying to establish peace right after the I World War (they weren’t very successful because we had the II World War, so they interrupted their activities). Within the Treaty of Versailles the International Labour Organization also took form. Then we had the II World War, and after we were done with that mess, in 1945 the institution United Nations was officially formed. And then in 1948, the GATT – the General Agreement on Tarifs and Trade – which later became the World Trade Organization – the WTO to establish some sort of negotiation in the international trading system.

These  international organizations started coming into the international scene and becoming more relevant, so they had more relevance in the negotiations – not only Nation States now had to negotiate these multilateral agreements and negotiations, but we also had the international organizations interested in the public good, of course.

But when we reache the 1980s and 1990s, we start seeing these internationalizations movements – the internationalization processes of corporations. You know, majorly American, European and Japanese private organizations that started to establish offices and branches overseas in other territories, and they became these networked private international organizations. These transnational organizations – transnational corporations – they started growing to the extent where some of them can actually be more powerful than some of the Nations States nowadays, and this is where we say that they became powerful enough where they have a lot of influence and a lot of power to come into the negotiation table in the international system. And this is where I say that we see the birth of Corporate Diplomacy, because these institutions are very powerful.

So, just to recap, we had the Nation States, they were the main actors, the most powerful actors, they would do all the negotiations. Then we started seeing the emergence of international organizations into the system and that is the beginning of the diffusion of power in the negotiations, and then more towards the 80s and 90s we see these private organizations – these transnational corporations – also taking form and becoming more powerful and starting to influence decision-making within the public environment.

To add a little more of a theoretical perspective, within International Relations we have a few authors who really theorize this movement and explain what is going on with these dynamics. Robert Keohane and Joseph Nye have partnered in a couple of publications, but I mostly like this publication by Joseph Nye called The Future of Power, and also Susan Strange in her publication called The Retreat of the State: The Diffusion of Power in the World Economy. They both talk about how technology is not put at the center of this transformation, but gains a very significant aspect on why this transition happens. So, information and communication technologies were very influential in the transition of power and the diffusion of power. These two authors, Joseph Nye and Susan Strange in these two books, will explain this in a very concise and a very clear way.

So, with these private organizations having more significance and having more space to negotiate and promote their individual private interests, you have the employees who go out and relate to governments and other institutions and then negotiate their interest. But the thing is that we need to create the mindset in these professionals that they are actual diplomats from these organizations because of how powerful these private institutions are becoming, so they need to be trained as corporate diplomats. It`s a little complex to train these profesisonals, but they have to become more aware of their political influence in the external environment – outside of the organizations of course.

So this was the first podcast, and in the next podcast I will talk about the structure of the corporate diplomacy foreign policy. As much as public diplomacy has its foreign policy as a structured strategy for the State, we need to think of the Corporation as a state, as na institution that has a structured strategy to deal with the external environment.

Stick around, there is a lot more to come!

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 higyhlights 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.

Technical Trade Barriers Brazil: The case of organic imports

National regulation for organic production in Brazil was implemented on January 1st of 2011, demanding all imported organics to be certified according to the specifics of Brazilian norms. This new regulatory framework brought a particular condition of technical barriers to trade in the country, as it makes it unfeasible for foreign brands to locally certify their organic manufacturing processes due to the complex demand of tracking all raw material used in production, extending it to the need of multiple certification packages far down the supply chain.

For US brands, for example, the inability to conform to such measures becomes particularly proven by the fact that the largest and most recognized certifying agency in Brazil (IBD) has only two certified US producers in their database – both in the very primary base of agricultural production.

This article is an attempt to initiate a debate on possible alternatives to stimulate market transformation and perhaps openness to organic imports. In this sense, we propose the following four potential strategies for local market development:

Strategy 1: Conform to certification norms

Though in itself the national regulation structure is one of extremely difficult comformity, the program is setting the bar at a high quality assurance standard for organic farming and industrialization practices – not at all prejudicial to a conscious consumer demand. Files containing the regulatory framework for organic certification in Brazil are available for download in this link.

Strategy 2: Adopt a market driven approach

Adaptation is a premise of international markets, so if no other option seems to be feasible, then foreign companies must adapt the product to local market features.

Brazil is a potential market with roughly 200 million consumers, which makes it unquestionable that the cost-benefit relation of investing in marketing and package redesign is no higher then either certifying or interfering in regulation. Plus, in order to be commercialized in accordance to current regulations, organic products must show the BR certification logo on the package, so some level of adaptation would occur either way. In fact, one strong argument behind the defense of current regulatory practices is on policy reciprocity, being that brazilian brands very frequently must conform to foreign market conditions.

Based on Decrete 6323, Chapter II, Section III – Of the Technical Regulation of Production. Art. 9o. Paragraph 2o. The norms for products from sustainable organic extrativism will be applied only to those which have as its objective the identification as an organic product.

The suggestion here is finding a substitution for the branding term organic, yet making sure it doesn’t fall into the specifics of organic regulation. This will most likely drive the consumer to rethink the concept. Some adapted branding examples are: Sustainable Production, Sustainable Culture, etc. In short, developing a local marketing strategy that compensates for the lack of organic certification.

We do however, have to observe the following Decrete 6323, Chapter IV, Section III. Of Publicity and Advertising. Art. 23. It is forbidden, in the publicity and advertising of products that are not produced within organic systems of production, the use of expressions, titles, marks, images or any other mode of information capable of inducing the consumer to error in regards to the organic quality of products.

But we should also notice that there is room for interpretation in the text, and specially when crossing this passage with the one previously mentioned – of not objectively identifying (i.e. cathegorizing) the product as organic or even as a product sourced from an organic system of production (i.e. if you don’t meet the specifications in the law, then you’re not producing from such a system). This strategy implies the creation of a new market concept for toxin free production.

For some particular cases, what is present today in Brazil is a market opportunity to focus on the consumer who is lactose intolerant, and/or in the phases of substituting animal products for a plant based diet. And lastly, a peculiarity of the brazilian market is that imported brands are often placed as premium products, and brands from developed markets are often a reference to high quality standards, and therefore pricing is not a limitation when companies still have room for similar profit margins expected from organics per se.

Strategy 3: Diplomatic articulation for regulation revision

Though a time intensive, unsure and expensive process, participation in regulation revision if foreseen in the following passages:

Law 10831, Art. 11, Paragraph 1. The regulation will contemplate the participation of representatives of the agricultural sector and civil society with recognized participation in any stage of the organic production chain; and

Law 10831, Art. 11, Paragraph 2. The regulation of this Law will be revised and updated when necessary and, in the maximum, every four years.

These revisions are executed through a specific mechanism, as per Decrete 6323, Chapter III, Section II – Of the Commissions. Art. 34. Responsibilities of CNPOrg (National Comission). II. Propose regulations that have as objectives the improvement of the organic production chain at the national and international levels, considering proposals sent by CPOrg-UFs (Comissions from each state).

These are the comissions to which proposed formulations must be addressed. An interesting suggestion is to provide an international mechanism  under the structure of an Economic Complementation Agreement for thorough transfer of technology and technical capacitation of local producers, allowing significant improvements in national quality and productivity, specially targeting the country’s national family farming programs.

Needless to mention, Brazil is a developing economy that is greatly damaged by a lack of good public governance practices, and local producers, broadly capillarized into a network of small traditional farming communities, would significantly suffer the social impacts of fierce corporate competition.

Strategy 4: Mobilize a dispute or agreement under the WTO TBT

Claiming that the brazilian government is violating the World Trade Organization’s Technical Barriers to Trade Agreement is an option. In this link you will find a copy of the agreement with key highlights in consideration to this particular case. However, the text can be interpreted in such a broad and subjective manner, that under the agreement you will find arguments for both in favor and against current regulatory practices in Brazil, as likely as in many cases of TBT disputes in the WTO system. So, ultimately, this option is more reliable if an inclusive counterproposal for standardized practices is put in place.

Author: Juliana Michelon Alvarenga. BSc. International Relations, MBA Business Intelligence. [julianama@aldeotaglobal.com]

Brazilian import tax reduction for ITC and industrial equipment and machinery

Through its International Trade Chamber (CAMEX), the Brazilian government has released new resolutions reducing the import tax rates of 217 different types of industrial equipments and machinery not produced nationally.

As an attempt to promote domestic industrial and production growth, capital goods such as engines, pumps and machines, and several products for the ITC sector have had their import tax rates reduced from 16% down to 2% through the special customs regime Ex-Tarifário.

The special regime allows temporary import rates reduction of manufactured items which are not produced by the national industry. Private initiative can also file requests for specific products.

The complete list of the applicable NCMs and further legislation are available in the Portuguese language through the following links:

Special customs regime for the Oil & Gas industry in Brazil

The special Brazilian customs regime REPETRO allows companies to import specific equipments to be used in research and exploitation of oil and natural gas fields, with the exemption of federal taxes such as the following:

  • II – Import tax;
  • IPI – Excise tax;
  • PIS – Contribution to the social inclusion program;
  • COFINS – Contribution to the social security financing;
  • AFRMM – Additional freight for the renewal of the merchant navy.

The goods which REPETRO may be applied to are listed under the sole appendix of the Normative Resolution RFB 844. The resolution determines the general ruling of the special fiscal regime, including licensing requirements and conditions.

In general, the regime may be applied to a) Fictitious exporting of equipment, when it is bought from a national supplier by a foreign company in order to be used in national territory. In this case, the product is re-imported under “temporary admission” conditions; b) Temporary admission to products bought from national suppliers by the national licensee; and c) The Drawback regime, applied to the importing of industrial supplies for the production of goods destined to fictitious exporting.

Further legislation details may be found at the following Federal Reserve site: