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Brazil

Executive Summary

Brazil is the second largest economy in the Western Hemisphere behind the United States, and the twelfth 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 seventh largest destination for global foreign direct investment (FDI) flows in 2021 with inflows of $58 billion, an increase of 133percent in comparison to 2020 but still below pre-pandemic levels (in 2019, inflows totaled $65.8 billion). In recent years, Brazil has received more than half of South America’s total amount of incoming FDI, and the United States is a major foreign investor in Brazil. According to Brazilian Central Bank (BCB) measurements, U.S. stock was 24 percent ($123.9 billion) of all FDI in Brazil as of the end of 2020, the largest single-country stock by ultimate beneficial owner (UBO), while International Monetary Fund (IMF) measurements assessed the United States had the second largest single-country stock of FDI by UBO, representing 18.7 percent of all FDI in Brazil ($105 billion) and second only to the Netherlands’ 19.9 percent ($112.5 billion). 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 and despite government efforts to resume in 2021, economic and political conditions hampered the process.

The Brazilian economy resumed growth in 2017, ending the deepest and longest recession in Brazil’s modern history. However, after three years of modest recovery, Brazil entered a recession following the onset of the global coronavirus pandemic in 2020. The country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) increased 4.6 percent in 2021, in comparison to a 4.1 percent contraction in 2020. As of February 2022, analysts had forecasted 0.3 percent 2022 GDP growth. The unemployment rate was 11.1 percent at the end of 2021, with over one-quarter of the labor force unemployed or underutilized. The nominal budget deficit stood at 4.4 percent of GDP ($72.4 billion) in 2021, and is projected to rise to 6.8 percent by the end of 2022 according to Brazilian government estimates. Brazil’s debt-to-GDP ratio reached 89.4 percent in 2020 and fell to around 82 percent by the end of 2021. The National Treasury projections show the debt-to-GDP ratio rising to 86.7 percent by the end of 2022, while the Independent Financial Institution (IFI) of Brazil’s Senate projects an 84.8 percent debt-to-GDP ratio. The BCB increased its target for the benchmark Selic interest rate from 2 percent at the end of 2020 to 9.25 percent at the end of 2021, and 11.75 percent in March 2022. The BCB’s Monetary Committee (COPOM) anticipates raising the Selic rate to 12.25 percent before the end of 2022.

President Bolsonaro took office on January 1, 2019, and in that same year signed a much-needed pension system reform into law and made additional economic reforms a top priority. Bolsonaro and his economic team outlined an agenda of further reforms to simplify Brazil’s complex tax system and complicated code of labor laws in the country, but the legislative agenda in 2020 was largely consumed by the government’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic. In 2021, the Brazilian government passed a major forex regulatory framework and strengthened the Central Bank’s autonomy in executing its mandate. The government also passed a variety of new regulatory frameworks in transportation and energy sectors, including a major reform of the natural gas market. In addition, the government passed a law seeking to improve the ease of doing business as well as advance the privatization of its major state-owned enterprise Electrobras.

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 foreign investment 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, rigid labor laws, and complex tax, local content, and regulatory requirements; all part of the extra costs of doing business in Brazil.

Table 1: Key Metrics and Rankings
Measure Year Index/Rank Website Address
TI Corruption Perception Index 2021 96 of 180 http://www.transparency.org/research/cpi/overview
Global Innovation Index 2021 57 of 129 https://www.globalinnovationindex.org/analysis-indicator
U.S. FDI in partner country ($M USD, historical stock positions) 2020 $70,742 https://apps.bea.gov/international/factsheet/
World Bank GNI per capita 2020 $7,850 https://data.worldbank.org/indicator/NY.GNP.PCAP.CD

 

1. Openness To, and Restrictions Upon, Foreign Investment

3. Legal Regime

4. Industrial Policies

5. Protection of Property Rights

6. Financial Sector

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 (SDGs) 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. A common challenge for foreign businesses, especially as it relates to child and forced labor, is a lack of transparency in supply chains.

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  

Additional Resources

Department of State

Department of the Treasury

Department of Labor

Climate Issues

Brazil is the world’s 12th largest greenhouse gas emitter. At COP 26 in November 2021, Brazil committed to achieving net zero emissions by 2050, ten years ahead of its previous commitment, ending illegal deforestation by 2028, and announced a plan to implement a Brazilian carbon market in 2022. However, rates of illegal deforestation continue to rise from a 2012 low; in 2021, illegal deforestation increased by 22 percent from the previous year. Private sector operators, especially in the agricultural sector, are concerned that consumer reaction to environmental issues in Brazil, especially deforestation in the Amazon Basin, could result in the boycott of Brazilian exports and a loss of market share. Such boycotts have already occurred in some supermarket chains in Europe.

Brazil established a National Policy on Climate Change in 2009 for climate change mitigation, adaptation, and consolidation of a low carbon economy. During COP 26 in Glasgow, Brazil published guidelines to update its national climate strategy, focusing on consolidating various initiatives to develop a low carbon economy. The strategy includes goals such as eliminating illegal deforestation, restoring forests, a “National Green Growth Plan,” and financing directed at developing a green economy.

In biodiversity, the Brazilian Ministry of the Environment coordinates and supports actions aimed at identifying species of native fauna and flora, monitoring and evaluating the conservation status of an increasingly significant portion of these species. To ensure the conservation of native species, the Ministry creates development models that encourage the sustainable use of biodiversity, along the lines of what is encouraged under the Convention on Biological Diversity and the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture.

In October 2021, the government launched the National Green Growth Program. The Program uses new resources from the BRICS Development Bank for forest conservation projects, the rational use of natural resources, and the generation of green jobs. The new program will have national and international resources, public and private, reimbursable and non-reimbursable impact funds and risk investments. The plan focuses on six areas: renewable energy, sustainable agriculture, low-emission industry, basic sanitation, waste treatment, and ecotourism. At the program launch, the Brazilian Ministry of Environment stated that the federal government has a total credit line of 411 billion reais ($82.2 million) allocated for green projects. However, critics argue that the program is just a repackaging of several initiatives that already existed in the government, claiming that of the 400 billion reais planned, only 12 billion ($2.4 million, 3 percent of the total) were new funds.

At COP 26, Brazil signed the Global Methane Pledge to reduce global methane emissions by 30 percent by 2030. In February 2022, the Ministry of Environment announced that it would soon present a “Methane Zero” plan that would incentivize biomethane capture/production from landfills, sugar cane waste, and dairy barns; however, as of March 2022 the plan has not been announced.

The government expects active participation from the private sector through contributions to the Ministry of Environment’s projects. For example, the “Adopt-a-Park” program was established to gather resources for the conservation of national parks and is directed at national and foreign companies or individuals that are interested in contributing to environmental protection in Brazil. Through the program, resources are invested by the adopter in services such as remote monitoring, wildland firefighting and prevention, actions against illegal deforestation, and recovery of degraded areas.

In 2019, Brazil launched the National Biofuels Policy (RenovaBio) to comply with its Paris Agreement commitments by promoting the expansion of biofuels in the energy matrix and the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions. The policy established annual national decarbonization targets for the fuel sector, divided into mandatory individual targets for fuel distributors. To comply with the targets, fuel distributors purchase Decarbonization Credits (CBIO), a financial asset tradable on the stock exchange since 2020 derived from the certification of the biofuel production process and that corresponds to one ton of carbon dioxide. According to the Brazilian government, the program reached 85 percent of its targets in 2021, preventing the emission of 24 million tons of greenhouse gases and trading $212 million-worth of CBIOs in the stock market.

9. Corruption

Brazil has laws, regulations, and penalties to combat corruption, but enforcement activities against corruption are inconsistent. Several bills to revise the country’s regulation of the lobbying/government relations industry have been pending before Congress for years. Bribery is illegal, and a bribe by a Brazilian-based company to a foreign government official can result in criminal penalties for individuals and administrative penalties for companies, including fines and potential disqualification from government contracts. A company cannot deduct a bribe to a foreign official from its taxes. While federal government authorities generally investigate allegations of corruption, there are inconsistencies in the level of enforcement among individual states. Corruption is problematic in business dealings with some authorities, particularly at the municipal level. U.S. companies operating in Brazil are subject to the U.S. Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA).

Brazil signed the UN Convention against Corruption in 2003 and ratified it in 2005. Brazil is a signatory to the OECD Anti-Bribery Convention and a participating member of the OECD Working Group on Bribery. It was one of the founders, along with the United States, of the intergovernmental Open Government Partnership, which seeks to help governments increase transparency.

In 1996, Brazil signed the Inter-American Convention Against Corruption (IACAC), developed within the Organization of American States (OAS). It was incorporated in Brazil by Legislative Decree 152 and went into force in 2002.

In 2020, Brazil ranked 96th out of 180 countries in Transparency International’s Corruption Perceptions Index. The full report can be found at: https://www.transparency.org/en/cpi/2021 

From 2014-2021, the complex federal criminal investigation known as Operação Lava Jato (Operation Carwash) investigated and prosecuted a complex web of public sector corruption, contract fraud, money laundering, and tax evasion stemming from systematic overcharging for government contracts, particularly at parastatal oil company Petrobras. The investigation led to the arrests and convictions of Petrobras executives, oil industry suppliers, executives from Brazil’s largest construction companies, money launderers, former politicians, and political party operators. Appeals of convictions and sentences continue to work their way through the Brazilian court system. On December 25, 2019, Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro signed a packet of anti-crime legislation into law, which included several anti-corruption measures. The new measures include regulation of immunity agreements – information provided by a subject in exchange for reduced sentence – which were widely used during Operation Carwash. The legislation also strengthens Brazil’s whistleblower mechanisms, permitting anonymous information about crimes against the public administration and related offenses. Operation Carwash was dissolved in February 2021. In March 2021, the OECD established a working group to monitor anticorruption efforts in Brazil.

In December 2016, Brazilian construction conglomerate Odebrecht and its chemical manufacturing arm Braskem agreed to pay the largest FCPA penalty in U.S. history and plead guilty to charges filed in the United States, Brazil, and Switzerland that alleged the companies paid hundreds of millions of dollars in bribes to government officials around the world. The U.S. Department of Justice case stemmed directly from the Lava Jato investigation and focused on violations of the anti-bribery provisions of the FCPA. Details on the case can be found at: https://www.justice.gov/opa/pr/odebrecht-and-braskem-plead-guilty-and-agree-pay-least-35-billion-global-penalties-resolve  

In January 2018, Petrobras settled a class-action lawsuit with investors in U.S. federal court for $3 billion, which was one of the largest securities class action settlements in U.S. history. The investors alleged that Petrobras officials accepted bribes and made decisions that had a negative impact on Petrobras’ share value. In September 2018, the U.S. Department of Justice announced that Petrobras would pay a fine of $853.2 million to settle charges that former executives and directors violated the FCPA through fraudulent accounting used to conceal bribe payments from investors and regulators.

In October 2020, Brazilian meatpacking and animal protein company JBS reached two settlements in the United States to pay fines to settle charges of corruption. The company is part of the J&F Group, which was also a part of the settlements. The group agreed to pay over $155 million in fines for violations of U.S. laws due to misconduct by J&F and failure to maintain accounting records by JBS. Lava Jato investigations also resulted in the arrest of several JBS executives who also signed plea bargains in the 2020 settlements.

Resources to Report Corruption

Secretaria de Cooperação Internacional – Ministério Público Federal

SAF Sul Quadra 04 Conjunto C Bloco “B” Sala 509/512

pgr-internacional@mpf.mp.br 
stpc.dpc@cgu.gov.br 
https://www.gov.br/cgu/pt-br/anticorrupcao 

Transparência BrasilR. Bela Cintra, 409; Sao Paulo, Brasil+55 (11) 3259-6986http://www.transparencia.org.br/contato

10. Political and Security Environment

Strikes and demonstrations occasionally occur in urban areas and may cause temporary disruption to public transportation. Brazil has over 41,000 murders annually, with low rates of murder investigation case completions and convictions.

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 107.8 million workers, including employed (95.7 million) and unemployed (12 million). Among employed workers, 38.95 million (40.7 percent) work in the informal sector. Brazil had an unemployment rate of 11.1 percent in the last quarter of 2021, although that rate was more than double (22.8 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 that formal workers enjoy under Brazil’s labor and social welfare system. The informal market represents approximately 16.8 percent of Brazil’s GDP. In 2021, employees’ average monthly income reached the lowest level in recorded history, at R$ 2,587 ($488).

Since 2012, women have on average been unemployed at a higher rate than their male counterparts, a scenario worsened by the pandemic. Between 2012 and 2019, the difference in average employment rates between men and women was 3.3 percentage points. In 2020, the average rate difference reached 4.5 percentage points and in 2021, 5.8 percentage points. In the last quarter of 2021, the Brazilian men’s unemployment rate was 9 percent, while the women’s unemployment rate was 13.9 percent. This discrepancy in employment rates is also traditionally observed for people of color in Brazil: while unemployment rates for whites is 9 percent (below the national average), blacks and mixed-race unemployment rates are significantly higher, at 13.6 percent and 12.6 percent respectively.

Foreign workers made up less than one percent of the overall labor force, but the arrival of more than 305,000 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 Brazilian government, through Operation Welcome’s voluntary interiorization strategy, has relocated more than 68,000 Venezuelans from the northern border region to cities with more economic opportunities. Migrant workers within Brazil play a significant role in the agricultural sector.

Workers in the formal sector contribute to the Time of Service Guarantee Fund (FGTS) the amount of 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 if the employee leaves voluntarily they are entitled to 20 percent of their contributions. 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 any labor laws to attract investment.

Collective bargaining is common, and there are 17,630 labor unions operating in Brazil in 2022. Labor unions, especially in sectors such as metalworking and banking, are well organized in advocating for wages and working conditions. 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). According to the Brazilian Institute of Geography and Statistics (IBGE), the share of unionized workers dropped to 11.2 percent of the workforce in 2019. The Ministry of Labor reported 7,854 collective bargaining agreements in 2021, an increase compared to the 6,118 agreements reported in 2020. 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 various 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. Trucker strikes in 2021, however, had more limited impact.

Brazil has ratified 98 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 four years (2018-2021), the Department of Labor, in its annual publication “Findings on the Worst forms of Child Labor,” has recognized Brazil for its moderate advancement in efforts to eliminate the worst forms of child labor. On July 28, 2021, President Jair Bolsonaro re-established the Ministry of Labor and Welfare as a separate ministry, reversing its January 2019 merger into the Ministry of Economy. In 2021, the GoB inspected 443 properties, resulting in the rescue of 1,937 victims of forced labor. Additionally, in 2020 GoB officials removed 810 child workers from situations of child labor, compared to 1,040 children in 2019.

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