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Brazil has long shown promise of becoming an emerging power but never quite gotten there. After strong economic growth in the 2000s amid a commodity boom – culminating in a 7.5 percent growth rate in 2010 – its ambitions once more crumbled. A devastating recession struck; GDP plunged 3.5 percent in each of 2015 and 2016, and political scandal and crisis triggered the impeachment of President Dilma Rousseff. Despite these setbacks, Brazil remains among the world’s ten largest economies, the dominant economy in Latin America – with around half of South America’s landmass, population, and GDP – and a global leader in agribusiness that rivals the United States, being the world’s top exporter of soybeans, poultry, sugar, and coffee. Although right-wing President Jair Bolsonaro personally aligns with the cultural populism of Donald Trump, China has become Brazil’s most important trading partner so that Brazil’s economy, including its powerful agribusiness sector, increasingly depends on China and the East.
This book shows how the current reform in investment regulation is part of a broader attempt to transform the international economic order. Countries in the North and South are currently rethinking how economic order should be constituted in order to advance their national interests and preferred economic orientation. While some countries in the North seek to create alternative institutional spaces in order to promote neoliberal policies more effectively, some countries in the South are increasingly skeptical of this version of economic order and are experimenting with alternative versions of legal ordering that do not always sit well with mainstream versions promoted by the North. While we recognize that there are differences in approaches to the investment regimes proposed by countries in the South, we identify commonalities that could function as the founding pillars of an alternative economic order.
Brazil is widely touted as one of the most successful users of the dispute settlement system of the World Trade Organization (WTO) among all countries, developing and developed, in terms of both the quantity of cases brought and the cases' systemic implications. Brazil has been the fourth most frequent complainant in the WTO dispute settlement system after the United States (US), European Union (EU), and Canada. It has won strategically important cases against the WTO's leading powers, and in particular in its agricultural subsidy cases against the US and EU. Its success before the WTO dispute settlement system has received national and international attention and has further motivated the government and private sector to engage actively in the Doha Round of WTO negotiations. The political payoffs for Brazil have been significant, helping it become a leader of developing countries in trade negotiations (the so-called G-20) and a member of a G-4 for trade negotiations in the Doha Round, consisting of the US, EU, Brazil, and India. As David Deese writes with respect to Brazilian and Indian leadership in the Doha Round, ‘[F]or the first time there was also a precedent set for shared structural leadership beyond the United States and the EU at the very heart of the international trade negotiating process’. For these reasons, Brazil is cited as a model for other developing countries, one with normative implications for our assessment of the WTO legal order.
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