Brazilian Trade Policy: Standards and Strategy

On Wednesday, February 6th, IIEP co-hosted a panel with the Brazil Initiative titled “Brazilian Trade Policy: Standards and Strategy” which focused on how Brazilian trade policy has changed over time and outlined actions necessary to solidify trade liberalization in Brazil.

Aluisio De Lima-Campos, chairman of the ABCI Institute and adjunct professor at American University’s Washington College of Law, began his talk with an overview of Brazil’s trade history – looking to coffee production and industrialization in 1880 as the catalyst for Brazilian trade policy. With the creation of CACEX in 1950, trade descended into a Dark Age. CACEX, a public entity charged with administering Brazilian trade policy, adopted a protectionist policy of import substitution. Economic and political crises ensued in Brazil, ending in the 1990s with a new age of trade policy. CACEX became extinct, and Brazil adopted many pro-trade policies.

“There really isn’t a Brazilian trade policy today. There are actions but no announced strategy or plan.” – Aluisio De Lima-Campos

In 1995, the Brazilian government created a chamber of foreign trade called CAMEX. Tasked with addressing long-standing trade policy problems, the chamber has become the top authority in international trade matters. Today, as De Lima-Campos explained, CAMEX remains the “top Kahuna of Brazilian trade policy where all the decisions are made.” He concluded his presentation by looking to the critical role CAMEX may play in shaping liberal Brazilian trade policy: if CAMEX becomes a ministry in the Brazilian government, it could formulate and implement international trade policy, set goals for negotiating trade agreements, approve litigation in the WTO, and make decisions on international trade financing.

Diego Eugenio Pizetta, a guest researcher at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), then closely examined Brazilian trade standards, defining different types of standards (technical, voluntary, and private) and comparing them with the national standards in the United States, China, and Europe. Pointing to the successes of market-driven standards in the U.S. and the private sector’s increasing participation in trade strategy in China, Pizetta offered several suggestions for improving trade standards not only in Brazil but also at the international level.

“Coffee in 1800 was the beginning of trade policy in Brazil.” – Aluisio De Lima-Campos

Pizetta argued that Brazil should define a strategy for standard policy integrated with technology policy and increase government participation in standardization. That way, Brazil can transfer more technology and knowledge to domestic companies and improve important sectors having to do with technological innovation and national security.

The discussion made clear how Brazilian trade policy has progressed over time. Still, more serious and transparent strategy is needed to improve Brazilian trade policy. De Lima-Campos concluded the discussion stating “I don’t know what Brazilian trade policy is today. There are actions, but no announced strategy or plan.” With more open talks and better strategy on the table, Brazil may bring itself closer to trade liberalization and see large gains in its economy.

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The Institute for International Economic Policy (IIEP), which is located within the Elliott School of International Affairs, serves as a catalyst for high quality, multi-disciplinary, and non-partisan research on policy issues surrounding economic globalization. The Institute research program helps develop effective policy options and academic analysis in a time of growing controversies about international economic integration in many countries around the world. The institute's work also encompasses policy responses for those who face continued poverty and financial crises despite worldwide economic growth. Affiliated faculty have appointments in the departments of economics, history, and political science as well as the law and business schools.

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