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.
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:
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.
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.
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.
2. Bilateral Investment Agreements and Taxation Treaties
Brazil does not have a Bilateral Investment Treaty (BIT) with the United States. In the 1990s, Brazil signed BITs with Belgium, Luxembourg, Chile, Cuba, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Italy, the Republic of Korea, the Netherlands, Portugal, Switzerland, the United Kingdom, and Venezuela. However, the Brazilian Congress did not ratify any of these agreements. In 2002, the Executive branch withdrew the agreements from Congress after determining that treaty provisions on international Investor-State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) were unconstitutional.
In 2015, Brazil developed a state-to-state Cooperation and Facilitation Investment Agreement (CFIA) which, unlike traditional BITs, does not provide for an ISDS mechanism. CFIAs instead outline progressive steps for the settlement of “issue[s] of interest to an investor”: 1) an ombudsmen and a Joint Committee appointed by the two governments will act as mediators to amicably settle any dispute; 2) if amicable settlement fails, either of the two governments may bring the dispute to the attention of the Joint Committee; 3) if the dispute is not settled within the Joint Committee, the two governments may resort to interstate arbitration mechanisms. The GOB has signed several CFIAs since 2015 with: Mozambique (2015), Angola (2015), Mexico (2015), Malawi (2015), Colombia (2015), Peru (2015), Chile (2015), Iran (2016), Azerbaijan (2016), Armenia (2017), Ethiopia (2018), Suriname (2018), Guyana (2018), the United Arab Emirates (2019), Ecuador (2019), and India (2020). The following CFIAs are in force: Mexico, Angola, Armenia, Azerbaijan, and Peru. A few CFIAs have received Congressional ratification in Brazil and are pending ratification by the other country: Mozambique, Malawi, and Colombia (https://concordia.itamaraty.gov.br/ ). Brazil also negotiated an intra-Mercosul Cooperation and Investment Facilitation Protocol (PCFI) similar to the CFIA in April 2017, which was ratified on December 21, 2018. (See sections on responsible business conduct and dispute settlement.)
Brazil has a Social Security Agreement with the United States. The agreement and the administrative arrangement were both signed in Washington on June 30, 2015 and entered into force on October 1, 2018. Brazil signed a Tax Information Exchange Agreement (TIEA) with the United States in March 2007, which entered into force on May 15, 2013. In September 2014, Brazil and the United States signed an intergovernmental agreement to improve international tax compliance and to implement the Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act (FATCA). This agreement went into effect in August 2015.
In October 2020, Brazil signed a Protocol on Trade Rules and Transparency with the United States, which has three annexes aimed at expediting processes involving trade: I) Customs Administration and Trade Facilitation; II) Good Regulatory Practices; and III) Anti-corruption. The protocol and annexes provide a foundation for reducing border bureaucracy, improving regulatory processes and stakeholder contribution opportunities, and supporting integrity in public institutions.
Brazil does not have a double taxation treaty with the United States, but Brazil does maintain tax treaties to avoid double taxation with the following 33 countries: Austria, Argentina, Belgium, Canada, Chile, China, Czech Republic, Denmark, Ecuador, Finland, France, Hungary, India, Israel, Italy, Japan, Luxembourg, Mexico, the Netherlands, Norway, Peru, Philippines, Portugal, Russia, Slovak Republic, South Africa, South Korea, Spain, Sweden, Trinidad & Tobago, Turkey, Ukraine, and Venezuela. Treaties with Singapore, Switzerland, United Arab Emirates, and Uruguay are pending ratification.
Brazil currently has pending tax reform legislation in Congress which is considered a priority by the government. The current texts propose simplifying tax collection by unifying various taxes, and would generally maintain the tax burden at its current level which is high relative to other countries in the region.
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.”
4. Industrial Policies
The GoB extends tax benefits for investments in less developed parts of the country, including the Northeast and the Amazon regions, with equal application to foreign and domestic investors. These incentives were successful in attracting major foreign plants to areas like the Manaus Free Trade Zone in Amazonas State, but most foreign investment remains concentrated in the more industrialized southeastern states in Brazil.
Individual states seek to attract private investment by offering tax benefits and infrastructure support to companies, negotiated on a case-by-case basis. Competition among states to attract employment-generating investment leads some states to challenge such tax benefits as beggar-thy-neighbor fiscal competition.
While local private sector banks are beginning to offer longer credit terms, the state-owned Brazilian National Development Bank (BNDES) is the traditional Brazilian source of long-term credit as well as export credits. BNDES provides foreign- and domestically owned companies operating in Brazil financing for the manufacturing and marketing of capital goods and primary infrastructure projects. BNDES provides much of its financing at subsidized interest rates. As part of its package of fiscal tightening, in December 2014, the GoB announced its intention to scale back the expansionary activities of BNDES and ended direct Treasury support to the bank. Law 13483, from September 2017, created a new Long-Term Lending Rate (TLP) for BNDES. On January 1, 2018, BNDES began phasing in the TLP to replace the prior subsidized loan rates. After a five-year phase in period, the TLP will float with the market and reflect a premium over Brazil’s five-year bond yield (which incorporates inflation). Although the GoB plans to reduce BNDES’s role further as it continues to promote the development of long-term private capital markets, BNDES continues to play a large role, particularly in concession financing, such as Rio de Janeiro’s water and sanitation privatization projects, in which BNDES can finance up to 65 percent of direct investments.
In December 2018, Brazil approved a new auto sector incentive package – Rota 2030 – providing exemptions from Industrial Product Tax (IPI) for research and development (R&D) spending. Rota 2030 replaced the Inovar-Auto program which was found to violate WTO rules. Rota 2030 increases standards for energy efficiency, structural performance, and the availability of assistive technologies; provides exemptions for investments in R&D and manufacturing process automation; incentivizes the use of biofuels; and funds technical training and professional qualification in the mobility and logistics sectors. To qualify for the tax incentives, businesses must meet conditions including demonstrating profit, minimum investments in R&D, and no outstanding tax liabilities.
Brazil’s Special Regime for the Reinstatement of Taxes for Exporters, or Reintegra Program, provides a tax subsidy of two percent of the value of goods exported.
Brazil provides tax reductions and exemptions on many domestically-produced information and communication technology (ICT) and digital goods that qualify for status under the Basic Production Process (Processo Produtivo Básico, or PPB). The PPB is product-specific and stipulates which stages of the manufacturing process must be carried out in Brazil in order for an ICT product to be considered produced in Brazil. Brazil’s Internet for All program, launched in 2018, aims to ensure broadband internet to all municipalities by offering tax incentives to operators in rural municipalities.
Law 12.598/2012 offers tax incentives to firms in the defense sector. The law’s principal aspects are to: 1) establish special rules for the acquisition, contract, and development of defense products and systems; 2) establish incentives for the development of the strategic defense industry sector by creating the Special Tax Regime for the Defense Industry (RETID); and, 3) provide access to financing programs, projects, and actions related to Strategic Defense Products (PED).
A RETID beneficiary, known as a Strategic Defense Company (EED), is accredited by the Ministry of Defense. An EED is a legal entity that produces or develops parts, tools, and components to be used in the production or development of defense assets. It can also be a legal entity that provides services used as inputs in the production or development of defense goods. RETID benefits include sale price credit and tax rate reduction for the manufacturing supply chain, including taxes on imported components. Additionally, RETID provides exemption from certain federal taxes on the purchase of materials for the manufacture of defense products, strategic defense products (PRODE / PED) and services provided by strategic defense companies (EED).
In April 2020, the Brazilian Defense and Security Industry Association (ABIMDE) requested the Minister of Defense to consider implementing improvements to Law 12.598 by allowing all its members to: 1) have access to special bidding terms (TLE) for defense and security materials; and, 2) automatically utilize their RETID status, rather than being required to individually apply to the Ministry of Defense for certification, as is currently the process. However, as of April 2021, the law has not been changed.
Foreign Trade Zones/Free Ports/Trade Facilitation
The federal government grants tax benefits to certain free trade zones. Most of these free trade zones aim to attract investment to the country’s relatively underdeveloped North and Northeast regions. The most prominent of these is the Manaus Free Trade Zone, in Amazonas State, which has attracted significant foreign investment, including from U.S. companies. Constitutional amendment 83/2014 extended the status of Manaus Free Trade Zone until the year 2073.
Performance and Data Localization Requirements
Government Procurement Preferences: The GoB maintains a variety of localization barriers to trade in response to the weak competitiveness of its domestic tech industry. These include:
Tax incentives for locally-sourced information and communication technology (ICT) goods and equipment (Basic Production Process (PPB), Law 8248/91 (amended by Law 13969/2019), and Portaria 87/2013); and
Government procurement preferences for local ICT hardware and software (2014 Decrees 8184, 8185, 8186, 8194, and 2013 Decree 7903); and the CERTICS Decree 8186, which aims to certify that software programs are the result of development and technological innovation in Brazil.
At the end of 2019, Brazil adopted a New Informatic Law, which revised the tax and incentives regime for the ICT sector. The regime is aligned with the requirements of the World Trade Organization (WTO), following complaints from Japan and the European Union that numerous Brazilian tax programs favored domestic products in contravention of WTO rules.
The New Informatic Law provides for tax incentives to manufacturers of ICT goods that invest in research, development, and innovation (RD&I) in Brazil. In order to receive the incentives, the companies must meet a minimum nationalization requirement for production, but the nationalization content is reduced commensurate with increasing investment in R&D. At least 60% of the production process is required to take place in Brazil to ensure eligibility.
The Institutional Security Cabinet (GSI) mandated the localization of all government data stored on the cloud during a review of cloud computing services contracted by the Brazilian government in Ordinance No. 9 (previously NC 14), made official in March 2018. While it does allow the use of cloud computing for non-classified information, it imposes a data localization requirement on all use of cloud computing by the Brazil government.
Investors in certain sectors in Brazil must adhere to the country’s regulated prices, which fall into one of two groups: those regulated at the federal level by a federal company or agency and those set by sub-national governments (states or municipalities). Regulated prices managed at the federal level include telephone services, certain refined oil and gas products (such as bottled cooking gas), electricity, and healthcare plans. Regulated prices controlled by sub-national governments include water and sewage fees, and most fees for public transportation, such as local bus and rail services. For firms employing three or more persons, Brazilian nationals must constitute at least two-thirds of all employees and receive at least two-thirds of total payroll, according to Brazilian Labor Law Articles 352 to 354. This calculation excludes foreign specialists in fields where Brazilians are unavailable. There is a draft bill in Congress (PL 2456/19) to remove the mandatory requirement for national employment; however, the bill would maintain preferential treatment for companies that continue to employ a majority of Brazilian nationals.
Decree 7174/2010, which regulates the procurement of information technology goods and services, requires federal agencies and parastatal entities to give preferential treatment to domestically produced computer products and goods or services with technology developed in Brazil based on a complicated price/technology matrix.
Brazil’s Marco Civil, an Internet law that determines user rights and company responsibilities, states that data collected or processed in Brazil must respect Brazilian law, even if the data is subsequently stored outside the country. Penalties for non-compliance could include fines of up to 10 percent of gross Brazilian revenues and/or suspension or prohibition of related operations. Under the law, Internet connection and application providers must retain access logs for specified periods or face sanctions. Brazil’s Lei Geral de Proteção de Dados Pessoais (LGPD) went into effect in August 2020. The LGPD governs the processing of the personal data of subjects in Brazil by people or entities, regardless of the type of processing, the country where the data is located, or the headquarters of the entity processing the data. It also established a National Data Protection Authority (ANPD) to administer the law’s provisions, responsible for oversight and sanctions (which will go into effect August 2021), which can total up to R$50 million (approximately $9 million) per infringement.
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.
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
6. Financial Sector
Capital Markets and Portfolio Investment
The Brazil Central Bank (BCB) embarked in October 2016 on a sustained monetary easing cycle, lowering the Special Settlement and Custody System (Selic) baseline reference rate from a high of 14 percent in October 2016 to a record-low 2 percent by the end of 2020. The downward trend was reversed by an increase to 2.75 percent in March 2021. As of March 2021, Brazil’s banking sector projects the Selic will reach 5 percent by the end of 2021. Inflation for 2020 was 4.52 percent, within the target of 4 percent plus/minus 1.5 percent. The National Monetary Council (CMN) set the BCB’s inflation target at 3.75 percent for 2021, at 3.5 percent for 2022 and at 3.25 percent at 2023. Because of a heavy public debt burden and other structural factors, most analysts expect the “neutral” policy rate will remain higher than target rates in Brazil’s emerging-market peers (around five percent) over the forecast period.
In 2020, the ratio of public debt to GDP reached 89.3 percent according to BCB, a new record for the country, although below original projections. Analysts project that the debt/GDP ratio will be at or above92 percent by the end of 2021.
The role of the state in credit markets grew steadily beginning in 2008, with public banks now accounting for over 55 percent of total loans to the private sector (up from 35 percent). Directed lending (that is, to meet mandated sectoral targets) also rose and accounts for almost half of total lending. Brazil is paring back public bank lending and trying to expand a market for long-term private capital.
While local private sector banks are beginning to offer longer credit terms, state-owned development bank BNDES is a traditional source of long-term credit in Brazil. BNDES also offers export financing. Approvals of new financing by BNDES increased 40 percent in 2020 from 2019, with the infrastructure sector receiving the majority of new capital.
The São Paulo Stock Exchange (BOVESPA) is the sole stock market in Brazil, while trading of public securities takes place at the Rio de Janeiro market. In 2008, the Brazilian Mercantile & Futures Exchange (BM&F) merged with the BOVESPA to form B3, the fourth largest exchange in the Western Hemisphere, after the NYSE, NASDAQ, and Canadian TSX Group exchanges. In 2020, there were 407 companies traded on the B3 exchange. The BOVESPA index increased only 2.92 percent in valuation during 2020, due to the economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. Foreign investors, both institutional and individuals, can directly invest in equities, securities, and derivatives; however, they are limited to trading those investments on established markets.
Wholly owned subsidiaries of multinational accounting firms, including the major U.S. firms, are present in Brazil. Auditors are personally liable for the accuracy of accounting statements prepared for banks.
Money and Banking System
The Brazilian financial sector is large and sophisticated. Banks lend at market rates that remain relatively high compared to other emerging economies. Reasons cited by industry observers include high taxation, repayment risk, concern over inconsistent judicial enforcement of contracts, high mandatory reserve requirements, and administrative overhead, as well as persistently high real (net of inflation) interest rates. According to BCB data collected for final quarter of 2019, the average rate offered by Brazilian banks to non-financial corporations was 13.87 percent.
The banking sector in Brazil is highly concentrated with BCB data indicating that the five largest commercial banks (excluding brokerages) account for approximately 80 percent of the commercial banking sector assets, totaling $1.58 trillion as of the final quarter of 2019. Three of the five largest banks (by assets) in the country – Banco do Brasil, Caixa Econômica Federal, and BNDES – are partially or completely federally owned. Large private banking institutions focus their lending on Brazil’s largest firms, while small- and medium-sized banks primarily serve small- and medium-sized companies. Citibank sold its consumer business to Itaú Bank in 2016, but maintains its commercial banking interests in Brazil. It is currently the sole U.S. bank operating in the country. Increasing competitiveness in the financial sector, including in the emerging fintech space, is a vital part of the Brazilian government’s strategy to improve access to and the affordability of financial services in Brazil.
On November 16, 2020, Brazil’s Central Bank implemented a twenty-four hour per day instant payment and money transfer system called PIX. The PIX system is supposed to deconcentrate the banking sector, increase financial inclusion, stimulate competitiveness, and improve efficiency in the payments market.
In recent years, the BCB has strengthened bank audits, implemented more stringent internal control requirements, and tightened capital adequacy rules to reflect risk more accurately. It also established loan classification and provisioning requirements. These measures apply to private and publicly owned banks alike. In December 2020, Moody’s upgraded a collection of 28 Brazilian banks and their affiliates to stable from negative after the agency had lowered the outlook on the Brazilian system in April 2020 due to the economic unrest. The Brazilian Securities and Exchange Commission (CVM) independently regulates the stock exchanges, brokers, distributors, pension funds, mutual funds, and leasing companies with penalties against insider trading.
Foreigners may find it difficult to open an account with a Brazilian bank. The individual must present a permanent or temporary resident visa, a national tax identification number (CPF) issued by the Brazilian government, either a valid passport or identity card for foreigners (CIE), proof of domicile, and proof of income. On average, this process from application to account opening lasts more than three months.
Foreign Exchange and Remittances
Brazil’s foreign exchange market remains small. The latest Triennial Survey by the Bank for International Settlements, conducted in December 2019, showed that the net daily turnover on Brazil’s market for OTC foreign exchange transactions (spot transactions, outright forwards, foreign-exchange swaps, currency swaps, and currency options) was $18.8 billion, down from $19.7 billion in 2016. This was equivalent to around 0.22 percent of the global market in 2019 versus 0.3 percent in 2016.
Brazil’s banking system has adequate capitalization and has traditionally been highly profitable, reflecting high interest rate spreads and fees. Per an October 2020 Central Bank Financial Stability Report, despite the economic difficulties caused by the pandemic, all banks exceeded required solvency ratios, and stress testing demonstrated that the banking system has adequate loss-absorption capacity in all simulated scenarios. Furthermore, the report noted 99.9 percent of banks already met Basel III requirements and possess a projected Common Equity Tier 1 (CET1) capital ratio above the minimum 7 percent required at the end of 2019.
There are few restrictions on converting or transferring funds associated with a foreign investment in Brazil. Foreign investors may freely convert Brazilian currency in the unified foreign exchange market where buy-sell rates are determined by market forces. All foreign exchange transactions, including identifying data, must be reported to the BCB. Foreign exchange transactions on the current account are fully liberalized.
The BCB must approve all incoming foreign loans. In most cases, loans are automatically approved unless loan costs are determined to be “incompatible with normal market conditions and practices.” In such cases, the BCB may request additional information regarding the transaction. Loans obtained abroad do not require advance approval by the BCB, provided the Brazilian recipient is not a government entity. Loans to government entities require prior approval from the Brazilian Senate as well as from the Economic Ministry’s Treasury Secretariat and must be registered with the BCB.
Interest and amortization payments specified in a loan contract can be made without additional approval from the BCB. Early payments can also be made without additional approvals if the contract includes a provision for them. Otherwise, early payment requires notification to the BCB to ensure accurate records of Brazil’s stock of debt.
Brazilian Federal Revenue Service regulates withholding taxes (IRRF) applicable to earnings and capital gains realized by individuals and legal entities resident or domiciled outside Brazil. Upon registering investments with the BCB, foreign investors are able to remit dividends, capital (including capital gains), and, if applicable, royalties. Investors must register remittances with the BCB. Dividends cannot exceed corporate profits. Investors may carry out remittance transactions at any bank by documenting the source of the transaction (evidence of profit or sale of assets) and showing payment of applicable taxes.
Under Law 13259/2016 passed in March 2016, capital gain remittances are subject to a 15 to 22.5 percent income withholding tax, with the exception of capital gains and interest payments on tax-exempt domestically issued Brazilian bonds. The capital gains marginal tax rates are: 15 percent up to $874,500 in gains; 17.5 percent for $874,500 to $1,749,000 in gains; 20 percent for $1,749,000 to $5,247,000 in gains; and 22.5 percent for more than $5,247,000 in gains. (Note: exchange rate used was 5.717 reais per dollar, based on March 30, 2021 values.)
Repatriation of a foreign investor’s initial investment is also exempt from income tax under Law 4131/1962. Lease payments are assessed a 15 percent withholding tax. Remittances related to technology transfers are not subject to the tax on credit, foreign exchange, and insurance, although they are subject to a 15 percent withholding tax and an extra 10 percent Contribution for Intervening in Economic Domain (CIDE) tax.
Sovereign Wealth Funds
Brazil had a sovereign fund from 2008 – 2018, when it was abolished, and the money was used to repay foreign debt.
7. State-Owned Enterprises
The GoB maintains ownership interests in a variety of enterprises at both the federal and state levels. Typically, boards responsible for state-owned enterprise (SOE) corporate governance are comprised of directors elected by the state or federal government with additional directors elected by any non-government shareholders. Although Brazil participates in many OECD working groups, it does not follow the OECD Guidelines on Corporate Governance of SOEs. Brazilian SOEs are prominent in the oil and gas, electricity generation and distribution, transportation, and banking sectors. A number of these firms also see a portion of their shares publicly traded on the Brazilian and other stock exchanges.
Notable examples of majority government-owned and controlled firms include national oil and gas giant Petrobras and power conglomerate Eletrobras. Both Petrobras and Eletrobras include non-government shareholders, are listed on both the Brazilian and American stock exchanges, and are subject to the same accounting and audit regulations as all publicly traded Brazilian companies.
Given limited public investment spending, the GoB has focused on privatizing state–owned energy, airport, road, railway, and port assets through long-term (up to 30 year) infrastructure concession agreements, although the pace of privatization efforts slowed in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
In 2019, Petrobras sold its natural gas distribution pipeline network, started the divestment of eight oil refineries, sold its controlling stake in Brazil’s largest retail gas station chain, and is in the process of selling its shares in regional natural gas distributors. While the pandemic resulted in a slowdown in the refinery divestments, momentum is increasing once again as of early 2021. Since 2016, foreign companies have been allowed to conduct pre-salt exploration and production activities independently, and no longer must include Petrobras as a minority equity holder in pre-salt oil and gas operations. Nevertheless, the 2016 law still gives Petrobras right –of first refusal in developing pre-salt offshore fields and obligates operators to share a percentage of production with the Brazilian state. The GoB supports legislation currently in Congress to further liberalize the development of pre-salt fields by removing Petrobras’ right-of-first refusal as well as production sharing requirements.
In March 2021, Brazil approved legislation to reform Brazil’s natural gas markets, which aims to create competition by unbundling production, transportation, and distribution of natural gas, currently dominated by Petrobras and regional gas monopolies. Creation of a truly competitive market, however, will still require lengthy state-level regulatory reform to liberalize intrastate gas distribution, in large part under state-owned distribution monopolies.
Eletrobras successfully sold its six principal, highly-indebted power distributors, and the GoB intends to privatize Eletrobras through issuance of new shares that would dilute the government’s majority stake and in early 2021 submitted a legislative proposal to Congress to advance this process.
In March 2021, the GoB included the state-owned postal service Correios in its National Divestment Plan (PND). As in the case of Eletrobras, privatization will require further Congressional legislation.
In 2016, Brazil created the Investment Partnership Program (PPI) to accelerate the concession of public works projects to private enterprise and the privatization of some state entities. PPI takes on priority federal concessions in road, rail, ports, airports, municipal water treatment, electricity transmission and distribution, and oil and gas exploration and production. Since 2016, PPI has auctioned off 200 projects, collecting $35 billion in auction bonuses and securing private investment commitments of $179 billion, including 28 projects, $1.43 billion in auction bonuses, and commitments of $8.14 billion in 2020. The full list of PPI projects is located at: https://www.ppi.gov.br/schedule-of-projects
While some subsidized financing through BNDES will be available, PPI emphasizes the use of private financing and debentures for projects. All federal and state-level infrastructure concessions are open to foreign companies with no requirement to work with Brazilian partners.
In 2008, the Ministry of Health initiated the use of Production Development Partnerships (PDPs) to reduce the increasing dependence of Brazil’s healthcare sector on international drug production and to control costs in the public healthcare system, which provides services as an entitlement enumerated in the constitution. The healthcare sector accounts for 9 percent of GDP, 10 percent of skilled jobs, and more than 25 percent of research and development nationally. PDP agreements provide a framework for technology transfer and development of local production by leveraging the volume purchasing power of the Ministry of Health. In the current administration, there is increasing interest in PDPs as a cost saving measure. U.S. companies have both competed for these procurements and at times raised concerns about the potential for PDPs to be used to subvert intellectual property protections under the WTO’s Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS).
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
Brazil has laws, regulations, and penalties to combat corruption, but their effectiveness is 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.
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, including 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 whistle blower 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.
Resources to Report Corruption
Petalla Brandao Timo Rodrigues
International Relations Chief Advisor
Brazilian Federal Public Ministry email@example.com
Setor de Autarquias Sul (SAS), Quadra 01, Bloco A; Brasilia/DF
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.
12. U.S. International Development Finance Corporation (DFC) and Other Investment Insurance and Development Finance Programs
Programs of the U.S. International Development Finance Corporation (DFC) are available, although DFC reports that certain new authorities established by the BUILD Act of 2018, including equity investments, technical assistance, grants, and feasibility studies, may require a new bilateral Investment Incentive Agreement with the Government of Brazil. DFC stated in 2019 its intent to invest in infrastructure and women entrepreneurship projects as its primary focus in Brazil. Brazil has been a member of the Multilateral Investment Guarantee Agency (MIGA) since 1992. In October 2020, DFC announced $ 984 million in investments in Brazil, mostly focused on small and medium enterprises. In October and November 2020, the DFC held two substantive discussions on the Investment Incentive Agreement (IIA) with over a dozen Brazilian government (GOB) agencies led by the Ministry of External Relations and the Ministry of Economy.
13. Foreign Direct Investment and Foreign Portfolio Investment Statistics
Table 2: Key Macroeconomic Data, U.S. FDI in Host Country/Economy
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)