Brazil is the second largest economy in the Western Hemisphere behind the United States, and the ninth largest economy in the world (in nominal terms), according to the World Bank. The United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) named Brazil the sixth largest destination for global Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) flows in 2019 with inflows of $72 billion, which increased 26 percent since Brazil announced its privatization plan that same year. In recent years, Brazil received more than half of South America’s total incoming FDI and the United States is a major foreign investor in Brazil. According to the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the United States had the second largest single-country stock of FDI by final ownership (UBO) representing 18 percent of all FDI in Brazil ($117 billion) behind only the Netherlands’ 23 percent ($147.7 billion) in 2019, the latest year with available data, while according to the Brazil Central Bank (BCB) measurements, U.S. stock was 23 percent ($145.1 billion) of all FDI in Brazil, the largest single-country stock by UBO for the same year. The Government of Brazil (GoB) prioritized attracting private investment in its infrastructure and energy sectors during 2018 and 2019. The COVID-19 pandemic in 2020 delayed planned privatization efforts.
The Brazilian economy returned to an expansionary trend in 2017, ending the deepest and longest recession in Brazil’s modern history. However, the global coronavirus pandemic in early 2020 returned Brazil to recession after three years of modest recovery. The country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) dropped 4.1 percent in 2020. As of March 2021, analysts forecast growth of 3.29 percent for 2021. The unemployment rate was 13.4 percent at the end of 2020. The nominal budget deficit stood at 13.7 percent of GDP ($196.7 billion) in 2020 and is projected to end 2021 at around 4 percent depending on passage of the 2021 budget. Brazil’s debt to GDP ratio reached a new record of 89.3 percent in 2020 with National Treasury projections of 94.5 percent by the end of 2021, while the Independent Financial Institution (IFI) of Brazil’s Senate projects 92.67 percent and the IMF estimates the ratio will finish 2021 at 92.1 percent. The BCB lowered its target for the benchmark Selic interest rate from 4.5 percent at the end of 2019 to 2 percent at the end of 2020, and as of March 2021, the BCB anticipates the Selic rate to rise to 5 percent by the end of 2021.
President Bolsonaro took office on January 1, 2019. In late 2019, Congress passed and President Bolsonaro signed into law a much-needed pension system reform and made additional economic reforms a top priority. Bolsonaro and his economic team have outlined an agenda of further reforms to simplify Brazil’s complex tax system and the onerous labor laws in the country, but the legislative agenda in 2020 was largely absorbed by response to the COVID-19 pandemic. However, Brazil advanced a variety of legal and regulatory changes that contributed to its overall goal to modernize its economy
Brazil’s official investment promotion strategy prioritizes the automobile manufacturing, renewable energy, life sciences, oil and gas, and infrastructure sectors. Foreign investors in Brazil receive the same legal treatment as local investors in most economic sectors; however, there are restrictions in the health, mass media, telecommunications, aerospace, rural property, and maritime sectors. The Brazilian Congress is considering legislation to liberalize restrictions on foreign ownership of rural property.
Analysts contend that high transportation and labor costs, low domestic productivity, and ongoing political uncertainties hamper investment in Brazil. Foreign investors also cite concerns over poor existing infrastructure, relatively rigid labor laws, and complex tax, local content, and regulatory requirements; all part of the extra costs of doing business in Brazil.
|TI Corruption Perceptions Index||2020||94 of 180||http://www.transparency.org/research/cpi/overview|
|World Bank’s Doing Business Report||2020||124 of 190||http://www.doingbusiness.org/en/rankings|
|Global Innovation Index||2020||62 of 129||https://www.globalinnovationindex.org/analysis-indicator|
|U.S. FDI in partner country ($M USD, historical stock positions)||2019||USD 81,731||https://apps.bea.gov/international/factsheet/|
|World Bank GNI per capita||2019||USD 9,130||http://data.worldbank.org/indicator/NY.GNP.PCAP.CD|
1. Openness To, and Restrictions Upon, Foreign Investment
Policies Towards Foreign Direct Investment
Brazil was the world’s sixth-largest destination for Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) in 2019, with inflows of $72 billion, according to UNCTAD. The GoB actively encourages FDI – particularly in the automobile, renewable energy, life sciences, oil and gas, and transportation infrastructure sectors – to introduce greater innovation into Brazil’s economy and to generate economic growth. GoB investment incentives include tax exemptions and low-cost financing with no distinction made between domestic and foreign investors. Foreign investment is restricted in the health, mass media, telecommunications, aerospace, rural property, maritime, and insurance sectors.
The Brazilian Trade and Investment Promotion Agency (Apex-Brasil) plays a leading role in attracting FDI to Brazil by working to identify business opportunities, promoting strategic events, and lending support to foreign investors willing to allocate resources to Brazil. Apex-Brasil is not a “one-stop shop” for foreign investors, but the agency can assist in all steps of the investor’s decision-making process, to include identifying and contacting potential industry segments, sector and market analyses, and general guidelines on legal and fiscal issues. Their services are free of charge. The website for Apex-Brasil is: http://www.apexbrasil.com.br/en
In 2019, the Ministry of Economy created the Ombudsman’s office to provide foreign investors with a single point of contact for concerns related to FDI. The plan seeks to eventually streamline foreign investments in Brazil by providing investors, foreign and domestic, with a simpler process for the creation of new businesses and additional investments in current companies. Currently, the Ombudsman’s office is not operating as a single window for services, but rather as an advisory resource for FDI.
Limits on Foreign Control and Right to Private Ownership and Establishment
A 1995 constitutional amendment (EC 6/1995) eliminated distinctions between foreign and local capital, ending favorable treatment (e.g. tax incentives, preference for winning bids) for companies using only local capital. However, constitutional law restricts foreign investment in healthcare (Law 8080/1990, altered by 13097/2015), mass media (Law 10610/2002), telecommunications (Law 12485/2011), aerospace (Law 7565/1986 a, Decree 6834/2009, updated by Law 12970/2014, Law 13133/2015, and Law 13319/2016), rural property (Law 5709/1971), maritime (Law 9432/1997, Decree 2256/1997), and insurance (Law 11371/2006).
Screening of FDI
Foreigners investing in Brazil must electronically register their investment with the Central Bank of Brazil (BCB) within 30 days of the inflow of resources to Brazil. In cases of investments involving royalties and technology transfer, investors must register with Brazil’s patent office, the National Institute of Industrial Property (INPI). Investors must also have a local representative in Brazil. Portfolio investors must have a Brazilian financial administrator and register with the Brazilian Securities Exchange Commission (CVM).
To enter Brazil’s insurance and reinsurance market, U.S. companies must establish a subsidiary, enter into a joint venture, acquire a local firm, or enter into a partnership with a local company. The BCB reviews banking license applications on a case-by-case basis. Foreign interests own or control 20 of the top 50 banks in Brazil, but Santander is the only major wholly foreign-owned retail bank.
Since June 2019, foreign investors may own 100 percent of capital in Brazilian airline companies.
While 2015 and 2017 legislative and regulatory changes relaxed some restrictions on insurance and reinsurance, rules on preferential offers to local reinsurers remain unchanged. Foreign reinsurance firms must have a representation office in Brazil to qualify as an admitted reinsurer. Insurance and reinsurance companies must maintain an active registration with Brazil’s insurance regulator, the Superintendence of Private Insurance (SUSEP) and maintain a minimum solvency classification issued by a risk classification agency equal to Standard & Poor’s or Fitch ratings of at least BBB-.
Foreign ownership of cable TV companies is allowed, and telecom companies may offer television packages with their service. Content quotas require every channel to air at least three and a half hours per week of Brazilian programming during primetime. Additionally, one-third of all channels included in any TV package must be Brazilian.
The National Land Reform and Settlement Institute administers the purchase and lease of Brazilian agricultural land by foreigners. Under the applicable rules, the area of agricultural land bought or leased by foreigners cannot account for more than 25 percent of the overall land area in a given municipal district. Additionally, no more than 10 percent of agricultural land in any given municipal district may be owned or leased by foreign nationals from the same country. The law also states that prior consent is needed for purchase of land in areas considered indispensable to national security and for land along the border. The rules also make it necessary to obtain congressional approval before large plots of agricultural land can be purchased by foreign nationals, foreign companies, or Brazilian companies with majority foreign shareholding. In December 2020, the Senate approved a bill (PL 2963/2019; source: https://www25.senado.leg.br/web/atividade/materias/-/materia/136853) to ease restrictions on foreign land ownership; however, the Chamber of Deputies has yet to consider the bill. Brazil is not yet a signatory to the World Trade Organization (WTO) Agreement on Government Procurement (GPA), but submitted its application for accession in May 2020. In February 2021, Brazil formalized its initial offer to start negotiations. The submission establishes a series of thresholds above which foreign sellers will be allowed to bid for procurements. Such thresholds differ for different procuring entities and types of procurements. The proposal also includes procurements by some states and municipalities (with restrictions) as well as state-owned enterprises, but it excludes certain sensitive categories, such as financial services, strategic health products, and specific information technologies. Brazil’s submission still must be negotiated with GPA members.
By statute, a Brazilian state enterprise may subcontract services to a foreign firm only if domestic expertise is unavailable. Additionally, U.S. and other foreign firms may only bid to provide technical services where there are no qualified Brazilian firms. U.S. companies need to enter into partnerships with local firms or have operations in Brazil in order to be eligible for “margins of preference” offered to domestic firms participating in Brazil’s public sector procurement to help these firms win government tenders. Nevertheless, foreign companies are often successful in obtaining subcontracting opportunities with large Brazilian firms that win government contracts and, since October 2020, foreign companies are allowed to participate in bids without the need for an in-country corporate presence (although establishing such a presence is mandatory if the bid is successful). A revised Government Procurement Protocol of the trade bloc Mercosul (Mercosur in Spanish), signed in 2017, would entitle member nations Brazil, Argentina, Paraguay, and Uruguay to non-discriminatory treatment of government-procured goods, services, and public works originating from each other’s suppliers and providers. However, none of the bloc’s members have yet ratified it, so it has not entered into force.
Other Investment Policy Reviews
The Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development’s (OECD) December 2020 Economic Forecast Summary of Brazil summarized that, despite new COVID-19 infections and fatalities remaining high, the economy started to recover across a wide range of sectors by the end of 2020. Since the publication, Brazil’s economy is faltering due to the continuing pandemic’s financial impact. The strong fiscal and monetary policy response managed to prevent a sharper economic contraction, cushioning the impact on household incomes and poverty. Nonetheless, fiscal vulnerabilities have been exacerbated by these necessary policy responses and public debt has risen. Failure to continue structural reform progress could hold back investment and future growth. As of March 2021, forecasts are for economic recovery in 2021 and high unemployment. The OECD report recommended reallocating some expenditures and raising spending efficiency to improve social protections, and resuming the fiscal adjustments under way before the pandemic. The report also recommended structural reforms to enhance domestic and external competition and improve the investment climate.
The IMF’s 2020 Country Report No. 20/311 on Brazil highlighted the severe impact of the pandemic in Brazil’s economic recovery but praised the government’s response, which averted a deeper economic downturn, stabilized financial markets, and cushioned income loss for the poorest. The IMF assessed that the lingering effects of the crisis will restrain consumption while investment will be hampered by idle capacity and high uncertainty. The IMF projected inflation to stay below target until 2023, given significant slack in the economy, but with the sharp increase in the primary fiscal deficit, gross public debt is expected to rise to 100 percent of GDP and remain high over the medium-term. The IMF noted that Brazil’s record low interest rate (Selic) helped the government reduce borrowing costs, but the steepening of the local currency yield curve highlighted market concerns over fiscal risks. The WTO’s 2017 Trade Policy Review of Brazil noted the country’s open stance towards foreign investment, but also pointed to the many sector-specific limitations (see above). All three reports highlighted the uncertainty regarding reform plans as the most significant political risk to the economy. These reports are located at the following links:
- OECD Report: http://www.oecd.org/economy/brazil-economic-snapshot/
- IMF Report: https://www.imf.org/en/Publications/CR/Issues/2020/12/01/Brazil-2020-Article-IV-Consultation-Press-Release-Staff-Report-and-Statement-by-the-49927
- WTO Report: https://www.wto.org/english/tratop_e/tpr_e/tp458_e.htm
A company must register with the National Revenue Service (Receita Federal) to obtain a business license and be placed on the National Registry of Legal Entities (CNPJ). Brazil’s Export Promotion and Investment Agency (APEX) has a mandate to facilitate foreign investment. The agency’s services are available to all investors, foreign and domestic. Foreign companies interested in investing in Brazil have access to many benefits and tax incentives granted by the Brazilian government at the municipal, state, and federal levels. Most incentives target specific sectors, amounts invested, and job generation. Brazil’s business registration website can be found at: http://receita.economia.gov.br/orientacao/tributaria/cadastros/cadastro-nacional-de-pessoas-juridicas-cnpj .
Overall, Brazil dropped in the World Bank’s Doing Business Report from 2019 to 2020; however, it improved in the following areas: registering property; starting a business; and resolving insolvency. According to Doing Business, some Brazilian states (São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro) made starting a business easier by allowing expedited business registration and by decreasing the cost of the digital certificate. On March 2021, the GoB enacted a Provisional Measure (MP) to simplify the opening of companies, the protection of minority investors, the facilitation of foreign trade in goods and services, and the streamlining of low-risk construction projects. The Ministry of Economy expects the MP, together with previous actions by the government, to raise Brazil by 18 to 20 positions in the ranking. Adopted in September 2019, the Economic Freedom Law 13.874 established the Economic Freedom Declaration of Rights and provided for free market guarantees. The law includes several provisions to simplify regulations and establishes norms for the protection of free enterprise and free exercise of economic activity.
Through the digital transformation initiative in Brazil, foreign companies can open branches via the internet. Since 2019, it has been easier for foreign businesspeople to request authorization from the Brazilian federal government. After filling out the registration, creating an account, and sending the necessary documentation, they can make the request on the Brazilian government’s Portal through a legal representative. The electronic documents will then be analyzed by the DREI (Brazilian National Department of Business Registration and Integration) team. DREI will inform the applicant of any missing documentation via the portal and e-mail and give a 60-day period to meet the requirements. The legal representative of the foreign company, or another third party who holds a power of attorney, may request registration through this link: https://acesso.gov.br/acesso/#/primeiro-acesso?clientDetails=eyJjbGllbnRVcmkiOiJodHRwczpcL1wvYWNlc3NvLmdvdi5iciIsImNsaWVudE5hbWUiOiJQb3J0YWwgZ292LmJyIiwiY2xpZW50VmVyaWZpZWRVc2VyIjp0cnVlfQ%3D%3D
Regulation of foreign companies opening businesses in Brazil is governed by article 1,134 of the Brazilian Civil Code and article 1 of DREI Normative Instruction 77/2020 . English language general guidelines to open a foreign company in Brazil are not yet available, but the Portuguese version is available at the following link: https://www.gov.br/economia/pt-br/assuntos/drei/empresas-estrangeiras .
For foreign companies that will be a partner or shareholder of a Brazilian national company, the governing regulation is DREI Normative Instruction 81/2020 DREI Normative Instruction 81/2020. The contact information of the DREI is firstname.lastname@example.org and +55 (61) 2020-2302.
- https://investmentpolicy.unctad.org/country-navigator provides investment measures, laws and treaties enacted by selected countries.
- http://www.doingbusiness.org/data/ provides indicators from economies on the ease of starting a limited liability company.
- GER.co provides links to business registration sites worldwide.
Brazil does not restrict domestic investors from investing abroad and Apex-Brasil supports Brazilian companies’ efforts to invest abroad under its “internationalization program”: http://www.apexbrasil.com.br/como-a-apex-brasil-pode-ajudar-na-internacionalizacao-de-sua-empresa . Apex-Brasil frequently highlights the United States as an excellent destination for outbound investment. Apex-Brasil and SelectUSA (the U.S. Government’s investment promotion office at the U.S. Department of Commerce) signed a memorandum of cooperation to promote bilateral investment in February 2014.
Brazil incentivizes outward investment. Apex-Brasil organizes several initiatives aimed at promoting Brazilian investments abroad. The Agency´s efforts comprised trade missions, business round tables, support for the participation of Brazilian companies in major international trade fairs, arranging technical visits of foreign buyers and opinion makers to learn about the Brazilian productive structure, and other select activities designed to strengthen the country’s branding abroad.
The main sectors of Brazilian investments abroad are financial services and assets (totaling 50.5 percent); holdings (11.6 percent); and oil and gas extraction (10.9 percent). Including all sectors, $416.6 billion was invested abroad in 2019. The regions with the largest share of Brazilian outward investments are the Caribbean (47 percent) and Europe (37.7 percent), specifically the Netherlands and Luxembourg.
Regulation on investments abroad are contained in BCB Ordinance 3,689/2013 (foreign capital in Brazil and Brazilian capital abroad): https://www.bcb.gov.br/pre/normativos/busca/downloadNormativo.asp?arquivo=/Lists/Normativos/Attachments/48812/Circ_3689_v1_O.pdf
Sale of cross-border mutual funds are only allowed to certain categories of investors, not to the general public. International financial services companies active in Brazil submitted to Brazilian regulators in late 2020 a proposal to allow opening these mutual funds to the general public, and hope this will be approved in mid 2021.
3. Legal Regime
Transparency of the Regulatory System
In the 2020 World Bank Doing Business report, Brazil ranked 124th out of 190 countries in terms of overall ease of doing business in 2019, a decrease of 15 positions compared to the 2019 report. According to the World Bank, it takes approximately 17 days to start a business in Brazil. Brazil is seeking to streamline the process and decrease the amount to time it takes to open a small or medium enterprise (SME) to five days through its RedeSimples Program. Similarly, the government has reduced regulatory compliance burdens for SMEs through the continued use of the SIMPLES program, which simplifies the collection of up to eight federal, state, and municipal-level taxes into one single payment.
The 2020 World Bank study noted Brazil’s lowest score was in annual administrative burden for a medium-sized business to comply with Brazilian tax codes at an average of 1,501 hours, a significant improvement from 2019’s 1,958 hour average, but still much higher than the 160.7 hour average of OECD high-income economies. The total tax rate for a medium-sized business is 65.1 percent of profits, compared to the average of 40.1 percent in OECD high-income economies. Business managers often complain of not being able to understand complex — and sometimes contradictory — tax regulations, despite having large local tax and accounting departments in their companies.
Tax regulations, while burdensome and numerous, do not generally differentiate between foreign and domestic firms. However, some investors complain that in certain instances the value-added tax collected by individual states (ICMS) favors locally based companies who export their goods. Exporters in many states report difficulty receiving their ICMS rebates when their goods are exported. Taxes on commercial and financial transactions are particularly burdensome, and businesses complain that these taxes hinder the international competitiveness of Brazilian-made products.
Of Brazil’s ten federal regulatory agencies, the most prominent include:
- ANVISA, the Brazilian counterpart to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, which has regulatory authority over the production and marketing of food, drugs, and medical devices;
- ANATEL, the country’s telecommunications regulatory agency, which handles telecommunications as well as licensing and assigning of radio spectrum bandwidth (the Brazilian FCC counterpart);
- ANP, the National Petroleum Agency, which regulates oil and gas contracts and oversees auctions for oil and natural gas exploration and production;
- ANAC, Brazil’s civil aviation agency;
- IBAMA, Brazil’s environmental licensing and enforcement agency; and
- ANEEL, Brazil’s electricity regulator that regulates Brazil’s power sector and oversees auctions for electricity transmission, generation, and distribution contracts.
In addition to these federal regulatory agencies, Brazil has dozens of state- and municipal-level regulatory agencies.
The United States and Brazil conduct regular discussions on customs and trade facilitation, good regulatory practices, standards and conformity assessment, digital issues, and intellectual property protection. The 18th plenary of the Commercial Dialogue took place in May 2020, and regular exchanges at the working level between U.S. Department of Commerce, Brazil’s Ministry of Economy, and other agencies and regulators occur throughout the year.
Regulatory agencies complete Regulatory Impact Analyses (RIAs) on a voluntary basis. The Senate approved a bill on Governance and Accountability (PLS 52/2013 in the Senate, and PL 6621/2016 in the Chamber) into Law 13,848 in June 2019. Among other provisions, the law makes RIAs mandatory for regulations that affect “the general interest.”
The Chamber of Deputies, Federal Senate, and the Office of the Presidency maintain websites providing public access to both approved and proposed federal legislation. Brazil is seeking to improve its public comment and stakeholder input process. In 2004, the GoB opened an online “Transparency Portal” with data on funds transferred to and from federal, state, and city governments, as well as to and from foreign countries. It also includes information on civil servant salaries.
In 2020, the Department of State found that Brazil had met its minimum fiscal transparency requirements in its annual Fiscal Transparency Report. The International Budget Partnership’s Open Budget Index ranked Brazil slightly ahead of the United States in terms of budget transparency in its most recent (2019) index. The Brazilian government demonstrates adequate fiscal transparency in managing its federal accounts, although there is room for improvement in terms of completeness of federal budget documentation. Brazil’s budget documents are publicly available, widely accessible, and sufficiently detailed. They provide a relatively full picture of the GoB’s planned expenditures and revenue streams. The information in publicly available budget documents is considered credible and reasonably accurate.
International Regulatory Considerations
Brazil is a member of Mercosul – a South American trade bloc whose full members include Argentina, Paraguay, and Uruguay. Brazil routinely implements Mercosul common regulations.
Brazil is a member of the WTO and the government regularly notifies draft technical regulations, such as potential agricultural trade barriers, to the WTO Committee on Technical Barriers to Trade (TBT).
Legal System and Judicial Independence
Brazil has a civil legal system with state and federal courts. Investors can seek to enforce contracts through the court system or via mediation, although both processes can be lengthy. The Brazilian Superior Court of Justice (STJ) must accept foreign contract enforcement judgments for the judgments to be considered valid in Brazil. Among other considerations, the foreign judgment must not contradict any prior decisions by a Brazilian court in the same dispute. The Brazilian Civil Code regulates commercial disputes, although commercial cases involving maritime law follow an older Commercial Code which has been otherwise largely superseded. Federal judges hear most disputes in which one of the parties is the Brazilian State, and also rule on lawsuits between a foreign state or international organization and a municipality or a person residing in Brazil.
The judicial system is generally independent. The Supreme Federal Court (STF), charged with constitutional cases, frequently rules on politically sensitive issues. State court judges and federal level judges below the STF are career officials selected through a meritocratic examination process. The judicial system is backlogged, however, and disputes or trials of any sort frequently require years to arrive at a final resolution, including all available appeals. Regulations and enforcement actions can be litigated in the court system, which contains mechanisms for appeal depending upon the level at which the case is filed. The STF is the ultimate court of appeal on constitutional grounds; the STJ is the ultimate court of appeal for cases not involving constitutional issues.
Laws and Regulations on Foreign Direct Investment
Brazil is in the process of setting up a “one-stop shop” for international investors. According to its website: “The Direct Investments Ombudsman (DIO) is a ‘single window’ for investors, provided by the Executive Secretariat of CAMEX. It is responsible for receiving requests and inquiries about investments, to be answered jointly with the public agency responsible for the matter (at the Federal, State and Municipal levels) involved in each case (the Network of Focal Points). This new structure allows for supporting the investor, by a single governmental body, in charge of responding to demands within a short time.” Private investors have noted this is better than the prior structure, but does not yet provide all the services of a true “one-stop shop” to facilitate international investment. The DIO’s website in English is: http://oid.economia.gov.br/en/menus/8
Competition and Antitrust Laws
The Administrative Council for Economic Defense (CADE), which falls under the purview of the Ministry of Justice, is responsible for enforcing competition laws, consumer protection, and carrying out regulatory reviews of proposed mergers and acquisitions. CADE was reorganized in 2011 through Law 12529, combining the antitrust functions of the Ministry of Justice and the Ministry of Finance. The law brought Brazil in line with U.S. and European merger review practices and allows CADE to perform pre-merger reviews, in contrast to the prior legal regime that had the government review mergers after the fact. In October 2012, CADE performed Brazil’s first pre-merger review.
In 2020, CADE conducted 471 total formal investigations, of which 76 related to cases that allegedly challenged the promotion of the free market. It approved 423 merger and/or acquisition requests and did not reject any requests.
Expropriation and Compensation
Article 5 of the Brazilian Constitution assures property rights of both Brazilians and foreigners that own property in Brazil. The Constitution does not address nationalization or expropriation. Decree-Law 3365 allows the government to exercise eminent domain under certain criteria that include, but are not limited to, national security, public transportation, safety, health, and urbanization projects. In cases of eminent domain, the government compensates owners at fair market value.
There are no signs that the current federal government is contemplating expropriation actions in Brazil against foreign interests. Brazilian courts have decided some claims regarding state-level land expropriations in U.S. citizens’ favor. However, as states have filed appeals of these decisions, the compensation process can be lengthy and have uncertain outcomes.
ICSID Convention and New York Convention
In 2002, Brazil ratified the 1958 Convention on the Recognition and Enforcement of Foreign Arbitration Awards. Brazil is not a member of the World Bank’s International Center for the Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID). Brazil joined the United Nations Commission on International Trade Law (UNCITRAL) in 2010, and its membership will expire in 2022.
Investor-State Dispute Settlement
Article 34 of the 1996 Brazilian Arbitration Act (Law 9307) defines a foreign arbitration judgment as any judgment rendered outside the national territory. The law established that the Superior Court of Justice (STJ) must ratify foreign arbitration awards. Law 9307, updated by Law 13129/2015, also stipulates that a foreign arbitration award will be recognized or executed in Brazil in conformity with the international agreements ratified by the country and, in their absence, with domestic law. A 2001 Brazilian Federal Supreme Court (STF) ruling established that the 1996 Brazilian Arbitration Act, permitting international arbitration subject to STJ Court ratification of arbitration decisions, does not violate the Federal Constitution’s provision that “the law shall not exclude any injury or threat to a right from the consideration of the Judicial Power.”
Contract disputes in Brazil can be lengthy and complex. Brazil has both a federal and a state court system, and jurisprudence is based on civil code and contract law. Federal judges hear most disputes in which one of the parties is the State and rule on lawsuits between a foreign State or international organization and a municipality or a person residing in Brazil. Five regional federal courts hear appeals of federal judges’ decisions. The 2020 World Bank Doing Business report found that on average it took 801 days to litigate a breach of contract.
International Commercial Arbitration and Foreign Courts
Brazil ratified the 1975 Inter-American Convention on International Commercial Arbitration (Panama Convention) and the 1979 Inter-American Convention on Extraterritorial Validity of Foreign Judgments and Arbitration Awards (Montevideo Convention). Law 9307/1996 amplifies Brazilian law on arbitration and provides guidance on governing principles and rights of participating parties. Brazil developed a new Cooperation and Facilitation Investment Agreement (CFIA) model in 2015 (https://concordia.itamaraty.gov.br/ ), but it does not include ISDS mechanisms. (See sections on bilateral investment agreements and responsible business conduct.)
Brazil’s commercial code governs most aspects of commercial association, while the civil code governs professional services corporations. In December 2020, Brazil approved a new bankruptcy law (Law 14,112), which largely models UNCITRAL Model Law on International Commercial Arbitration, and addresses criticisms that its previous bankruptcy legislation favored holders of equity over holders of debt. The new law facilitates judicial and extrajudicial resolution between debtors and creditors, and accelerates reorganization and liquidation processes. Both debtors and creditors are allowed to provide reorganization plans that would eliminate non-performing activities and sell-off assets, thus avoiding bankruptcy. The new law also establishes a framework for cross-border insolvencies that recognizes legal proceedings outside of Brazil. The World Bank’s 2020 Doing Business Report ranks Brazil 77th out of 190 countries for ease of “resolving insolvency.”
5. Protection of Property Rights
Brazil has a system in place for mortgage registration, but implementation is uneven and there is no standardized contract. Foreign individuals or foreign-owned companies can purchase real estate property in Brazil. Foreign buyers frequently arrange alternative financing in their own countries, where rates may be more attractive. Law 9514 from 1997 helped spur the mortgage industry by establishing a legal framework for a secondary market in mortgages and streamlining the foreclosure process, but the mortgage market in Brazil is still underdeveloped, and foreigners may have difficulty obtaining mortgage financing. Large U.S. real estate firms are, nonetheless, expanding their portfolios in Brazil.
Intellectual Property Rights
Intellectual property (IP) rights holders in Brazil continue to face challenges. Brazil has remained on the “Watch List” of the U.S. Trade Representative’s (USTR) Special 301 Report since 2007. For more information, please see: https://ustr.gov/sites/default/files/files/reports/2021/2021%20Special%20301%20Report%20(final).pdf.Brazil
Brazil has one physical market, located in Sao Paolo, listed on USTR’s 2020 Review of Notorious Markets for Counterfeiting and Piracy. The Rua 25 de Marco area is reportedly a distribution center for counterfeit and pirated goods throughout Sao Paulo. Enforcement actions in this region continue. Authorities used these enforcement actions as a basis to take civil measures against some of the stores. For more information, please see: https://ustr.gov/sites/default/files/files/Press/Releases/2020%20Review%20of%20Notorious%20Markets%20for%20Counterfeiting%20and%20Piracy%20(final).pdf.
According to the National Forum Against Piracy, contraband, pirated, counterfeit, and stolen goods cost Brazil approximately $74 billion in 2019. (http://www.fncp.org.br/forum/release/292 ) (Yearly average currency exchange rate: 1 USD = 3.946 R)
For additional information about treaty obligations and points of contact at local IP offices, please see the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO)’s country profiles: http://www.wipo.int/directory/en
8. Responsible Business Conduct
Most state-owned and private sector corporations of any significant size in Brazil pursue corporate social responsibility (CSR) activities. Brazil’s new CFIAs (see sections on bilateral investment agreements and dispute settlement) contain CSR provisions. Some corporations use CSR programs to meet local content requirements, particularly in information technology manufacturing. Many corporations support local education, health, and other programs in the communities where they have a presence. Brazilian consumers, especially the local residents where a corporation has or is planning a local presence, generally expect CSR activity. Corporate officials frequently meet with community members prior to building a new facility to review the types of local services the corporation will commit to providing. Foreign and local enterprises in Brazil often advance United Nations Development Program (UNDP) Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) as part of their CSR activity, and will cite their local contributions to SDGs, such as universal primary education and environmental sustainability. Brazilian prosecutors and civil society can be very proactive in bringing cases against companies for failure to implement the requirements of the environmental licenses for their investments and operations. National and international nongovernmental organizations monitor corporate activities for perceived threats to Brazil’s biodiversity and tropical forests and can mount strong campaigns against alleged misdeeds.
The U.S. diplomatic mission in Brazil supports U.S. business CSR activities through the +Unidos Group (Mais Unidos), a group of multinational companies established in Brazil, which support public and private CSR alliances in Brazil. Additional information can be found at: www.maisunidos.org
Department of State
- Country Reports on Human Rights Practices (https://www.state.gov/reports-bureau-of-democracy-human-rights-and-labor/country-reports-on-human-rights-practices/);
- Trafficking in Persons Report (https://www.state.gov/trafficking-in-persons-report/);
- Guidance on Implementing the “UN Guiding Principles” for Transactions Linked to Foreign Government End-Users for Products or Services with Surveillance Capabilities (https://www.state.gov/key-topics-bureau-of-democracy-human-rights-and-labor/due-diligence-guidance/) and;
- North Korea Sanctions & Enforcement Actions Advisory (https://home.treasury.gov/system/files/126/dprk_supplychain_advisory_07232018.pdf).
Department of Labor
- Findings on the Worst forms of Child Labor Report (https://www.dol.gov/agencies/ilab/resources/reports/child-labor/findings);
- List of Goods Produced by Child Labor or Forced Labor (https://www.dol.gov/agencies/ilab/reports/child-labor/list-of-goods);
- Sweat & Toil: Child Labor, Forced Labor, and Human Trafficking Around the World (https://www.dol.gov/general/apps/ilab) and;
- Comply Chain (https://www.dol.gov/ilab/complychain/).
10. Political and Security Environment
Strikes and demonstrations occasionally occur in urban areas and may cause temporary disruption to public transportation. Brazil has over 43,000 murders annually, with low rates of completion in murder investigations and conviction rates.
Non-violent pro- and anti-government demonstrations have occurred periodically in recent years.
Although U.S. citizens usually are not targeted during such events, U.S. citizens traveling or residing in Brazil are advised to take common-sense precautions and avoid any large gatherings or any other event where crowds have congregated to demonstrate or protest. For the latest U.S. State Department guidance on travel in Brazil, please consult www.travel.state.gov.
11. Labor Policies and Practices
The Brazilian labor market is composed of approximately 100.1 million workers, including employed (86.2 million) and unemployed (13.9 million). Among employed workers, 34 million (39.5 percent) work in the informal sector. Brazil had an unemployment rate of 13.9 percent in the last quarter of 2020, although that rate was more than double (28.9 percent) for workers ages 18-24. Low-skilled employment dominates Brazil’s labor market. The nearly 40 million workers in the informal sector do not receive the full benefits formal workers enjoy under Brazil’s labor and social welfare system. Since 2012, women have on average been unemployed at a higher rate (3.15 percentage points higher) than their male counterparts. In 2020, the difference reached 4.5 percentage points. Foreign workers made up less than one percent of the overall labor force, but the arrival of more than 260,000 economic migrants and refugees from Venezuela since 2016 has led to large local concentrations of foreign workers in the border state of Roraima and the city of Manaus. Since April 2018, the government of Brazil, through Operation Welcome’s voluntary interiorization strategy, has relocated more than 49,000 Venezuelans away from the northern border region to cities with more economic opportunity. Migrant workers from within Brazil play a significant role in the agricultural sector.
Workers in the formal sector contribute to the Time of Service Guarantee Fund (FGTS) that equates to one month’s salary over the course of a year. If a company terminates an employee, the employee can access the full amount of their FGTS contributions or 20 percent in the event they leave voluntarily. Brazil’s labor code guarantees formal sector workers 30 days of annual leave and severance pay in the case of dismissal without cause. Unemployment insurance also exists for laid off workers equal to the country’s minimum salary (or more depending on previous income levels) for six months. The government does not waive labor laws to attract investment; they apply uniformly cross the country.
In April 2020, Provisional Measure 396/2020 (later ratified as Law 14020/2020) authorized employers to reduce working hours and wages in an effort to preserve employment during the economic crisis caused by the pandemic. The law will maintain its validity only during the state of calamity caused by the pandemic and the reduction requires the employee’s concurrence.
Collective bargaining is common and there were 11,587 labor unions operating in Brazil in 2018. Labor unions, especially in sectors such as metalworking and banking, are well organized in advocating for wages and working conditions and account for approximately 19 percent of the official workforce according to the Brazilian Institute of Applied Economic Research (IPEA). In some sectors, federal regulations mandate collective bargaining negotiations across the entire industry. A new labor law in November 2017 ended mandatory union contributions, which has reduced union finances by as much as 90 percent according to the Inter-Union Department of Statistics and Socio-economic Studies (DIEESE). DIEESE reported a significant decline in the number of collective bargaining agreements reached in 2018 (3,269) compared to 2017 (4,378).
Employer federations also play a significant role in both public policy and labor relations. Each state has its own federations of industry and commerce, which report respectively to the National Confederation of Industry (CNI), headquartered in Brasilia, and the National Confederation of Commerce (CNC), headquartered in Rio de Janeiro.
Brazil has a dedicated system of labor courts that are charged with resolving routine cases involving unfair dismissal, working conditions, salary disputes, and other grievances. Labor courts have the power to impose an agreement on employers and unions if negotiations break down and either side appeals to the court system. As a result, labor courts routinely are called upon to determine wages and working conditions in industries across the country. The labor courts system has millions of pending legal cases on its docket, although the number of new filings has decreased since November 2017 labor law reforms.
Strikes occur periodically, particularly among public sector unions. A strike organized by truckers’ unions protesting increased fuel prices paralyzed the Brazilian economy in May 2018, and led to billions of dollars in losses to the economy.
Brazil has ratified 97 International Labor Organization (ILO) conventions and is party to the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child and major ILO conventions concerning the prohibition of child labor, forced labor, and discrimination. For the past eight years (2010-2018), the Department of Labor, in its annual publication Findings on the Worst forms of Child Labor, has recognized Brazil for its significant advancement in efforts to eliminate the worst forms of child labor. On January 1, 2019, newly-elected President Jair Bolsonaro eliminated the Ministry of Labor and divided its responsibilities between the Ministries of Economy, Justice, and Social Development. The GoB, in 2020, inspected 266 properties, resulting in the rescue of 942 victims of forced labor. Additionally, GoB officials removed 1,040 child workers from situations of child labor compared to 1,409 children in 2018. Of these, 20 children were rescued from situations of slavery-like conditions, compared to 28 in 2018.
13. Foreign Direct Investment and Foreign Portfolio Investment Statistics
|Host Country Statistical source*||USG or international statistical source||USG or International Source of Data:
BEA; IMF; Eurostat; UNCTAD, Other
|Host Country Gross Domestic Product (GDP) ($M USD)||2020||$1.43 trillion||2019||$1.84 trillion||www.worldbank.org/en/country|
|Foreign Direct Investment||Host Country Statistical source*||USG or international statistical source||USG or international Source of data:
BEA; IMF; Eurostat; UNCTAD, Other
|U.S. FDI in partner country ($M USD, stock positions)||2019||$145.1 billion||2018||$81.731 billion||BEA data available at https://apps.bea.gov/international/
|Host country’s FDI in the United States ($M USD, stock positions)||2019||$21.956||2019||$4.617 billion||BEA data available at
|Total inbound stock of FDI as % host GDP||2019||$34.6%||2019||34.9%||UNCTAD data available at https://unctad.org/en/Pages/DIAE/
[Select country, scroll down to “FDI Stock”- “Inward”, scan rightward for most recent year’s “as percentage of gross domestic product”]
|Direct Investment from/in Counterpart Economy Data|
|From Top Five Sources/To Top Five Destinations (U.S. Dollars, Billions)|
|Inward Direct Investment||Outward Direct Investment|
|Total Inward||648.353||100%||Total Outward||247.605||100%|
|The Netherlands||147.688||22.8%||Cayman Islands||74.298||30%|
|United States||117.028||18.0%||British Virgin Islands||56.184||22.7%|
|Portfolio Investment Assets|
|Top Five Partners (Millions, current US Dollars)|
|Total||Equity Securities||Total Debt Securities|
|All Countries||45,085||100%||All Countries||36,161||100%||All Countries||8,923||100%|
|United States||19,451||43%||United States||15,754||44%||United States||3,697||41%|
|Cayman Islands||4,727||10%||Cayman Islands||4,378||12%||Republic of Korea||863||10%|