Nation States: Organizational Hierarchies or Networks?

Last semester, during a seminar at Goethe Universität on Geographies of Violence: state, space and power relations in Latin America, the idea of “Nation States as institutional hierarchies” was fiercily challenged by the idea of “Nation States as networks”.

The “network party”, as Anne-Marie Slaughter calls it (2014: pp. 59), is a paradigm change for social organization. And though I do agree and believe that all interactions can now be referred to as networks, I believe it is early to redefine Nation States as networks.

Ultimately, Nation States still function as hierarchical structures, and though the concept of networked organization is indeed possible to be applied to understanding power relations, economic and social dynamics within them (and especially to their relations within the international system), understanding Nation States as networked organizations is something only feasible (to a large extent) in academic/conceptual thought.

Slaughter gives us valuable insights on why the transition from traditional hierarchical structures to networked organizations has not yet happened to Nation States. She draws a comparison between Hierarchies and Networks that clarifies why this is so:

  1. Networked organizations are more flexible (?), creative (?), adaptable (?), autonomous (?) and resilient (?) relative to hierarchies;
  2. Networks depend on trust (?) and reciprocity (?);
  3. Networks do not require a governing authority (?); and lastly
  4. Every organization features continuous  interplay between its informal networks and its formal structures (!). All formal hierarchies contain informal networks (!) ; all networks will develop informal hierarchies based on experience or expertise. (ibid.: pp. 63)

Based on her insights, Anne-Marie Slaughter helps us to understand Nation States as hierarchical structures featuring continuous interplay between its informal networks and its formal structures. I believe this is a more accurate description or even conception of the contemporary organizational model of Nation States.

Though a more detailed analysis is certainly needed to further understand the ongoing structural and paradigmatic transformation in society and in State institutions (especially through developing case studies, as different Nation States would certainly prove to be in different stages of this transformation), I suggest avoiding the assumption that the network paradigm has made its way through and substituted the hierarchical formalities of public governance.

 

Reference

Slaughter, A. (2017) The Chessboard and the Web: Strategies of Connection in a Networked World. Yale University Press.

[Podcast] Christine Lagarde’s call for action – IMF World Economic Outlook

In today’s podcast we are going to be speaking about the IMF World Economic Outlook, which is a publication that was release by the International Monetary Fund in October of 2018. I actually want to focus this conversation a little more on the press conference that was delivered in the World Economic Forum on January 21st of 2019, where a panel was held with directors of the IMF – the Managing Director Christine Lagarde, she is very well known, but she also had the support of an economic counselor, who is the director of their research department, in order to deliver the sort of information that we are going to review today. What I think was very interesting – the highlight of this study, of course – will be Lagarde’s message because she introduced us to the study. She gave us an overview of what is actually happening in the global economy. But she had a very strong call for action and, of course, when that comes from Christine Lagarde I think that we need to focus and pay attention. She is a powerful woman, she is running the IMF, and it was very interesting to see her out there and deliver this message.

In the beginning she tried to make this analogy between cross-country skiing with the global economy. It was quite interesting, it was kind of cute to see her – such a powerful woman – come down and say: “here,” – in a very educational manner – “this is what we expect from the economic environment. We want predictability, less risk. We want things to run smoothly, just kind of like cross-country skiing”, which is a personal practice. So that was quite interesting.

But Lagarde did not have a very exciting message to tell us. She actually had some unfortunate news for the global economic environment. She told us, here, we have to deliver this message that we are downgrading the growth forecast since october 2018, because risks are on the rise and we have some bad news on the trading front, so we have some threats in the trading environment which is sort of escalating all sorts of problems and risks in the global economy and for that reason they had to announce a further downward revision of the forecast that was published in October. This is pretty much because of the significantly higher risks.

Higher trade tariffs and rising uncertainty over future trade policies. That is a big issue that is one of the key sources of global economic risks. Lower asset prices, higher market volatility, which these three combined are tightening financing conditions and that is including for advanced economies. And this is in a scenario of high debt burden in both private and public sectors are carrying a high debt load right now.

But she does give us the message that we are not facing a global recession right around the corner. This does not mean that a major downturn is happening. But what is happening is that a sharper decline in global economic growth is happening, there are many issues, including geopolitical worries as well.

But she says that this scenario actually shows us a very clear message for policy-makers. One is that they need to address remaining vulnerabilities. And two, is that they need to be ready if a serious slow down were actually to materialize. So, if a recession is actually to materialize, policy-makers need to be ready. Third message is that policy-makers need to harness existing growth momentum, and she is very emphatic. She says, yes, there is growth momentum, so we need to take advantage of that and harness these sorts of opportunities.

Policy-makers also need to work on reducing high government debt, and she is making a point here that this opens space to fight future downturn in the global economy. So, economies need to be ready if that comes to take place.

As far as monetary policy, they should be data dependent and exchange rates should be allowed as shock absorbers, and I thought that that was kind of interesting because of the whole conversation behind exchange rate manipulation. Next message is about economic reforms. They need to be in place in order to push growth, specially in labour markets and infrastructure investments.

So, these were the messages that she believes that this risky scenario is showing us. But she also makes a point in saying that if we must deliver the promise of the digital revolution, it has to be inclusive to all people, including measures to help workers that are displaced because of the automation of work, and we also need to create opportunities for women and young people.

She has a very important point here on International Cooperation. She said that for efficient and effective collaboration in the international system we have to increase our efforts in resolving the shared problems and that meaning, we need to fix the global trading system. There is a call for action here for the G-20 saying that they have to deliver results. This is a call for the World Trade Organization reform. I think this took place in Buenos Aires. She says that we need to collaborate in fighting corruption and tax evasion, and also, collectively address climate change.

Now, one very interesting message, I think she nailed in closing her speech talking about something that she calls New Multilateralism. And that was brilliant, because she runs away from the term globalization. Because people have been feeling very uncomfortable about the globalization topic, and globalization issues. Countries are becoming more nationalist driven, and she puts this here that is not becoming a unit, it is staying multilateral but acting together. And I thought that that was quite brilliant. She gives us a new perspective on globalization. Kind of running away from the term, but still sticking to togetherness. Kind of nice. And that includes macroeconomic policies and structural reforms that need to be applied to many economies in the world.

Now, going back to the report. In October of 2018, the IMF had this projection of global growth at 3.7% in 2019 and they reduced that to 3.5% in 2019 and then they also reduced to 3.6% in 2020. Now this is for global growth. The growth in advanced economies is forecasted at 2% in 2019 and 1.7% in 2020. And then emerging markets and developing economies at 4.5% in 2019 and 4.9% in 2020.

Both in the report and the press conference, they really put emphasis on the rising trading tensions and then the policy uncertainty that raise concerns about the global economic prospects, because these factors could actually lead firms to postpone or forgo capital spending, and then hence slow down economic growth and investment and demand.

One very interesting point in the report – and this is where I am going to close this podcast with – is the point that the IMF is now keeping an eye on increasing market power. They also think that this is a risk for economic growth. They said that the concerns about corporate market power is growing pretty much for two reasons. One is because, in the past decades, there has been some macroeconomic trends that can be somewhat the fault of corporate behaviour. Low investments, despite of rising corporate profits, declining business dynamism, low productivity growth and falling labour income. This is quite interesting because they pretty much raise a flag here saying, here, we have to review the behaviour that is happening in the private environment, we have to follow up on actions that are going to change this sort of trending behaviour. And, I mean, if we are talking about Corporate Diplomacy, there is a lot to be talked about on here – activities and strategies that need to be built in order to respond to such a claim that corporate market power can actually account for these macroeconomic trends that are not so positive for the overall economy.

And then the second reason about the rising concern in the market power of corporations is that the rise of tech giants has raised questions about whether this trend – of the tech giants becoming more powerful – and if this trend continues, the IMF is saying that we need to rethink the policy that is needed in order to maintain fair and strong competition. I thought that it was very nice to put in the context of Corporate Diplomacy. So, there is a lot that could be explored in this report. This increasing market power session in this report itself is evidence that government is becoming aware and it actually wants to tackle the sort of increase in power for private environment. And all sorts of strategies that have to be built, not because the private environment needs to win in the game. We actually want a balanced governance strategy nowadays.

[Podcast] Creating the Corporate Foreign Policy

The topic today is Corporate Foreign Policy, but how did we come up with this name? Because Corporate Diplomacy is pretty much a reflection of traditional Public Diplomacy, we borrowed the term Foreign Policy. States, in Public Diplomacy, have specific interests that they need to defend in the international environment, so they build up this foreign policy on how they are going to relate to the external economy, to the external political environment. So, we bring ths term – this practice of having a plan on how to relate to the external environment – we bring it to  Corporate Diplomacy and then build this matrix.

I created this methodology to build a strategy that goes beyond the economic interests of the organization. What the Corporate Foreign Policy does is it expands this planning – this strategy building – to engage with the external environment as a whole: the government, the market and society in general. It is a composition of four pilars. So, the methodology is divided in a pilar that is called Information, a pilar that is called Government, a pilar that is called Society and a pilar that is called Market. And this is what I will talk about today. I will break down these four pilars and then talk a little about each one of them and how to build this strategy by starting with the pilar Information.

Information is the main pilar because it is where the organizational philosophy is going to be constructed and how the diffusion of this philosophy is going to be carried on. So, you define the philosophy of the organization and then you also define a strategy to communicate that philosophy within the organization and then to the external environment. This philosophy of the organization is pretty much the organizational’s narrative: what are we portraying externally? What are our ideals, our beliefs upon which the organization is built? Are we a sustainable business? And if so, what do we understand by sustainability? We have to create these concepts in our organizational strategy.

A second step within the information pilar is to define the causes we support. Do we wish to engage in activities that will tackle current challenges such as poverty, climate change and education? If so, we develop these meanings. What are our ideas that compose our strategy to deal with poverty, for example. What do we think that should be done collectively so that issues are minimized and that the problems can be tackled. In the information pilar what we are going to build is a conceptual narrative and this conceptual narrative is pretty much the message that we want to communicate externally. This message needs to be diffused internally so that the people (our employees) who are going to diffuse this information are alligned with the philosophy of the organization.

Now, the second pilar is Government. There isn’t necessarily an order here,  but I like to put information first because you can first construct the philosophy of the organization and then from there on you can build your strategy in the order that you wish: either government, society or market. But within the Government pilar we want to ask ourselves: who in government are we going to engage with and negotiate our interests and interests that are more related to public interests?

Within national governments we have a set of institutions at municipal, state and federal levels. And we have to map these institutions within each one of these spheres. Do we want to relate locally (municipally), do we want to relate at state and federal levels? So, what we are going to do is: we are going to map these key institutions we wish to relate with, we are going to map the programs that interest us, So, if the institution at municipal, state and federal levels have specific programs that they already work with, we need to have these programs mapped out so that we know what kind of proposals we are going to build for technical cooperation. And I think that essentially, we need to have a map for the key contacts within these institutions. A map of people who are within the offices and the people who occupy these offices. And the reason why I think this map is really important is pretty much because organizational employees – especially in private organizations – come and go, they move either to other institutions or they move either vertically or horizontally within the organization. By mapping these contacts out we have a track record, a history of these relations, who is the organization relating to, and at which point within other institutions. And this is a good track record to have because then you don’t have to restart the relationship – to restart the conversation and the exchanges – everytime you have somebody new coming into the offices.

Then we have the institutions at the international levels, and we draw these maps slightly different because we want to know which countries have common technical and commercial interests. If we are based in one country we would also like to know which countries have similar interests and whether there are treaties, either multilateral or bilateral treaties (agreements) already in place to promote these sort of cooperation in these particular interets. Let me give an example. If we are located in Germany and we export to the United States, it would, in a particular segment – lets say, biotechnology – it would be interesting to know which treaties are in place bilaterally, between the United States and Germany, to understand if there is some space to integrate that agreement, that common interest at the higher political level into our activities. This is quite interesting, and this is where real Corporate Diplomacy comes into place, because we have the expertise, we have the economic exchange, we have a lot to be able to cooperate with these bilateral agreements and to put these activities in a more practical perspective and how we can increase the economic exchange – either scientific or economic exchange within these two countries. So this is a good example.

Then there is our third pilar, which is Society. Within this pilar we must define the policy programs that will be carried out by the organization. This is pretty much an extension of the organizational philosophy. Here is where the plan to act on the visions that we have for the collective are carried out. So, if the philosophy says we are a sustainable organization, within the Information pilar we are going to define the concepts of sustainability, and then within the pilar Society we’re going to structure programs to carry out these sort of philosophies. Are we going to promote recycling? Are we going to promote water cleaning? Decrease atmosphere pollution, and so on. We want to know if we have social or environmental policies in place, and if so, what are our priority programs within these policy programs. This is pretty much the third pilar, I’m not going to be speaking about it extensively. We already kind of spoke about it within the Information pilar because the third pilar really depends on the philosophy that the organization has. This has a lot to do with Corporate Responsibility. So, if the organization wants to engage in particular projects that can improve its corporate image, then this is the place where we should create the programs.

Then we move on to the last pilar, which is Market. This is essentially just an integration of the more traditional organizational strategy. Within this pilar we map out the entire supply chain: consumers, distributors, suppliers, competitors. And we kind of have these definitions and these maps – a visual – on how we relate to all these stakeholders.

And here we also define our Research and Development strategy. We establish our priority projects in scientific developments. We map also scientific institutions that might be working on the same type of technologies that our organization is working on, and we also map the incentive programs that are in place for technological developments.

Ideally, all of these pilars must contain action plans for at least a 12-month period. Maybe four years to relate at federal levels, because offices change after four years.  But ideally, every 12 months we should have some sort of revision on our plan, and having an action plan for the next 12-month period. That would be a good time frame to have a vision on how we are relating to the external environment.

So, what this methodology attempts to do is pretty much to centralize – in a good way, centralizing. I’m going to explain this. If you think of air traffic, for example. If you don’t have air traffic control, if you don’t have a centralized vision on what is happening collectively, than you might face accidents and all sorts of problems. So, I think that by centralizing a vision, we can tackle and coordinate the way that we are going to deal with the external issues and problems that may arise in a more efficient way. So I think that in this way, centralization is not so negatively put.

[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!

Accelerating Energy Efficiency: Policy Briefs for the 2018 High Level Political Forum

The High Level Political Forum on Sustainable Development meets annually in July, under the United Nations Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC), where countries present their Voluntary National Reviews (VRNs) of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The HLPF also carries out thematic reviews of progress on the SDGs including cross-cutting issues. To facilitate an in-depth review of progress, the HLPF annually discusses a particular set of SDGs and their interlinkages. In 2018, the in-depth review will be carried out over SDGs 6, 7, 11, 12 and 15, as well as 17, which is reviewed annually.

As a Major Group Consultative Member for the ECOSOC Civil Society Network, my cooperative efforts are particularly focused on the private-public dialogue over policy briefs contained within the new publication “Accelerating SDG 7 achievement: Policy briefs in support of the first SDG 7 review at the UN High-Level Political Forum 2018”. The document was launched by the SDG7 Technical Advisory Group, in partnership with UN DESA (United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs) and includes 27 policy briefs relating to accelerating SDG 7 achievement.

Policy Brief #6 Energy Technology Innovation: Digitalization of Grid Services. Increasing the speed of digitalized technology development could lead to a first-mover advantage for pioneering countries or companies.

  • The need for resilient infrastructure, increasing stress on resources, and decentralized supply) and enabled by the interaction of various disciplines such as data and information networks. As the rate of interlinkages increases and improvements in data and information networks accelerate, we can expect rapid advances in the innovations that exploit the interactions of these technologies.
  • Technology such as sensors, robotics and advanced analytics, which together form advanced interconnected systems capable of quickly analyzing large amounts of data, are developing potentially transformative solutions, across various sectors, for improving energy efficiency and managing more variable renewable energy. This development is driven by continuous improvements, and the cost-performance curve of core digital technology building blocks: computing power, data storage, and bandwidth utilization.

Policy Brief #14 Interlinkages Between Energy and Sustainable Cities: Smart Grid and Smart Buildings. Cities are adopting more energy efficient policies and practices in the transport, buildings, industry, and commercial sectors.

  • The number of energy efficient building codes adopted by countries, and by-law at city levels, has increased in the last five years.
  • Smart grids are enabling major energy efficiency and resilience gains. Using ICTs, the grid is able to manage energy demand and use most efficient energy source on the system.

The formal session to review SDG7 will take place on 10 July from 11:00 to 13:00, during the HLPF 2018 and Side Events sponsored by Member States, UN system and other intergovernmental organizations, Major Groups and other accredited stakeholders will be held in the margins of the event. More information on the HLPF 2018 can be found here.

Brazilian Central Bank publishes Fintech regulations

On April 24th, 2018, the Brazilian National Monetary Council (CMN) approved Resolutions 4.656 and 4.657, which regulate the performance of financial technology companies (known as Fintechs) operating in the credit market.

According to Resolution 4.656/2018, Fintechs may operate within the following two frameworks:

  • Direct Credit Society, or SCD (Sociedade de Crédito Direto), through which Fintechs can lend money raised through investment funds, eliminating the bank as an intermediary; or
  • Person-to-Person Credit Society, or SEP (Sociedade de Empréstimo entre Pessoas), which allows for peer-to-peer lending operations within the established limit of R$15.000 per CPF (individual) or CNPJ (organizations).

In September of 2017, the Brazilian Central Bank had opened a request for comments on the subject (BC Public Consultation 55/2017). The new regulation is part of its + Agenda – the Bank’s strategy to increase competition in the National Financial System, foster credit offer, reducing the cost for the final borrower and increase legal certainty to operations.

 

REFERENCES:

Folha de São Paulo. Fintechs poderão concede crédito sem mediação de banco. May, 2018.

InternetLab. Banco Central regulamenta atuação de startups de tecnologia no mercado de crédito. April, 2018.

Banco Central. BC coloca em consulta pública atuação de Fintechs no mercado de crédito. September, 2017.

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)

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 higyhlights 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)

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]

Advocacy strategy for the sustainable transition of high impact enterprises

Building a sustainable strategy sometimes demands complex action plans involving multidisciplinary and interdependent areas of any organization. Such approach may come at high planning and interwoven execution costs, which may represent the first barrier at the decision making process on transitioning from an ordinary twentieth century business to a sustainable twenty-first century enterprise.

However, if your organization is indeed intending to incorporate the new business development model in its institutional framework, action shall not precede planning, and a simple road map to guide a first discussion on which actions should be given priority to during the transitional phase – however long it may last – will certainly fit a broader purpose. The following are the four key elements I believe lies at the core of a well planned head start.

Research & Development: R&D is the primary element in changing the ways in any organization, thus it provides technological solutions for current industrial processes that may release harmful residues to the environment, as well as new modes of product development. As we experience great increase in innovation initiatives along with growing incentives, having a strong R&D system may support consistent economic and intellectual property growth.

Measures of Compensation: Sustainability implies rational use of resources, and that means understanding the need of mitigating negative environmental and social impacts through reconstructive initiatives, such as the recovery of damaged areas, treatment of contaminated resources or restablishment of displaced communities. This may intertwine with the organization’s R&D capacity, for the development of specific technologies, or plans for community engagement in the cases of considerable social impacts.

Community Engagement: It is important to engage community members for awareness growth. This is the element conducting collective and collaborative transformation, which may be provided through capacity building and interactive educational campaigns.

Corporate Governance: It is essentialy important for any institution to publicly engage through incorporating governmental measures and combining internal and public policies in order to attract political support and stronger institutional recognition. At a time when private sector is continuously growing its active participation in development policies construction, incorporating external policy models may contribute to building holistic synergies between enterprises, market, society and government.