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)

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)

Financial market shows positive reaction to economic reforms in Brazil

The Brazilian financial market reacted very optimistically to the new government announcements of privatization and to a proposal for new interest rates for BNDES (National Development Bank). The currency value is on the rise and so is IBOVESPA, showing great recovery rates since its last downturn earlier in June, after corruption accusations were released in in mid May, involving President Temer.

The positive reaction seems to be a reflection to the privatization package announced, but also for the fact that the measure improves the country’s governance at a micro level as well, having a good effect on overall enterprise management practices, improvement in the business environment and povides a promise of greater productivity as a result.

The forecast is for a wave of foreign capital income, though investors might want to wait at first, since currency exchange rates show a tendency for improvement as well. Share price increases were shown in the energy, mining and financial sectors.

(Revoked) Brazilian government removes legal protection on mineral reserve

As of August 30th, the decision was revoked by Federal Justice, in response to a popular iniciative, alleging that the authorization of mining practices in the Amazon must be made by passing a Law through the House of Representatives and not by a presidential decree.

Original post:

The Brazilian government extinguished the legal reserve protection for Renca, the National Reserve for Copper and Associates, located on the border of the states Pará and Amapá, originally created in 1984. Renca encompasses a total of 4,6 mi hectares, a territory composed by 9 distinctive protected areas.

The region is of great interest to the mining industry because of its potential for the extraction of gold and other minerals such as iron, manganese and tantalum. Without the legal protection, the área may now be subject to exploitation.

The measure was made oficial by decree 9.142/17 on August 23rd 2017, and has already caused some backlash commotion by activists, though it does not affect existing legislation for native forests, conservation areas and indigenous land protection. The Brazilian government expects investment attraction and increase in the country’s mining production.

Brazilian government announces new privatization plans

The Brazilian government has just announced the agenda for a series of new plans for auctioning public assets, aiming to raise government income in order to meet fiscal objectives.

This is the follow up stage of a series of privatizations and concessions announced in September 2016, which included in its first phase 34 projects. In this second phase they are releasing 57 new assets. The plan is parto f the Investment Partnership Program, which discusses concessions and privatizations.

Earlier this week the Ministry of Mines and Energy had already announced a proposal to the privatization of Eletrobras, through selling part of the shares owned by the Federal Government, though maintaining its veto power.

The government announced that wishes to auction part of its BR-364, a federal highway running from the state of Rondônia and Mato Grosso and rebid part of BR-153 between Goiás and Tocantins. BR-153 was auctioned back in 2014 during Roussef’s administration, but the concessionary Galvão did not meet the contracted investments and had its contract cancelled. These auctions are currently scheduled for the last quarter of 2018.

The Ministry of Transport is also proposing the concession of 15 port terminals, which are áreas dedicated to cargo handling in ports. They are located in Belém (LPG and liquid bulk cargo), Vila do Conde (liquid bulk cargo), Paranaguá (grains) and Vitória (liquid bulk cargo). The government also included the early extension of fertilizers terminal of Itaqui Port and the authorization for capacity increase in the Terminal Agrovia Nordeste, located at the Port of Suape. All biddings scheduled for 2018.

The Private Investment Partnership also foresee the concession of 12 airports, in two regional blocks: Nordeste (cities of Maceió, Aracaju, João Pessoa, Campina Grande, Juazeiro do Norte and Recife) and Midwest (cities of Cuiabá, Sinop, Alta Floresta, Barra do Garças and Rondópolis). The plan also confirms the intention of selling shares from Infraero at Guarulhos, Confins, Brasília and Galeão airports.

The Ministry of Defense also included the intention of a Public-Private Partnership in the modality of a 25-year administrative concession for the services of telecommunications signal transportation for the Department of Air Space Control (Decea) and military organizations in the country.

The Ministry of Mines and Energy will also propose 11 concession projects for the instalation of electric transmission (transmission lines and substations) located in the states of Bahia, Ceará, Pará, Paraná, Paraíba, Pernambuco, Piauí, Rio Grande do Norte, Minas Gerais e Tocantins.

Source: This article was originally posted on G1 News in the Portuguese language and translate by Juliana Michelon Alvarenga. BSc. International Relations, MBA Business Intelligence. [julianama@aldeotaglobal.com]