- Ricardo Senra and Mariana Sanches
- BBC News Brasil in the USA
2 hours ago
The announcement of a new trade pact between the governments of Brazil and the United States, last Monday (19), was met with harsh criticism and threats by members of the committee responsible for public spending and tariff rules in the North American Chamber of Deputies. American.
In the assessment of Democratic parliamentarians at the head of the Tax Affairs Committee (“Ways and Means Commitee”), the three topics of the new protocol, signed 15 days before the US presidential election, would be a “slap in the face of lawmakers”, “they mock and circumvent “the American Congress, and” tarnish the reputation of the USA “around the world.
Described in the U.S. as the oldest and most important of the legislative branch, the commission has been controlled since last year by opponents of Donald Trump. Behind the scenes, they have said that they were taken by surprise by the ad and are in retaliation, according to BBC News Brasil found out.
The Brazilian government, in turn, says that the trade and economic cooperation protocol is “supraparty”, the result of dialogue with all those involved and brings “mutual and reciprocal” benefits.
According to the Itamaraty, the Bolsonaro government hopes “that the package will form the basis of a broad trade agreement to be negotiated in the future between the two largest economies on the American continent”.
The path, the opposition promises, must not be easy.
The political and commercial rapprochement between Brazil and the USA has been the subject of tension in Washington since Jair Bolsonaro took office – but the temperature peaked in June this year, when 24 US deputies signed an unpublished letter indicating that they would veto “any trade agreement or the expansion of commercial partnerships with Brazil by President Bolsonaro “.
The letter was answered by the Brazilian government, which classified the text as the result of “misinformation and misrepresentation”.
In private meetings at the White House and the Plateau, however, the letter was read as a severe blow to an eventual free trade agreement between the two countries. The main reason is that any partnership that involves the renegotiation of commercial tariffs depends on congressional approval (in the USA, currently, the Chamber of Deputies is led by Democrats, while the Senate has a Republican majority).
On that occasion, Brazil’s current ambassador to Washington, Nestor Forster, defended “the solid record of respect for human and labor rights, and of protecting the dignity of workers” in Brazil and underscored “President Bolsonaro’s commitment to protection and development sustainable “.
Four months later, the main signatories of the June letter return to the scene and accuse Trump and Bolsonaro of acting “unilaterally”, “deteriorating the relationship between the Executive and Congress”.
Described by mediators as a nod to businesspeople on both sides, the recently announced acts promise to facilitate trade and have the potential to reduce costs and expand business between Brazil and the USA.
They start, however, from a fundamental principle: there is no change in the current customs tariffs imposed by the two countries in their content. Thus, the treaties could be concluded without the need for the signature of deputies and senators.
If, on the one hand, the strategy accelerated the process and consolidated itself as another chapter in the rapprochement between the Trump and Bolsonaro governments, on the other hand, as expected, it aroused the ire of opposition politicians.
“With this trade agreement, the Trump administration circumvented Congress to reward a Brazilian government that does not respect basic human rights, the environment and its own workers,” said the chairman of the Tax Affairs Committee, Richard E. Neal.
“Giving President Bolsonaro ammunition to suggest that the United States endorses his behavior tarnishes our nation’s reputation as a country that requires our trade partners to respect human rights and the democratic rule of law,” continued the Democratic MP.
Member of the commission for more than 10 years, Neal is a federal deputy for the State of Massachusetts, where the largest community of Brazilians in the USA is located.
In a note, he further stated that “President Trump and the Office of the United States Trade Representative (USTR) have chosen to move forward unilaterally with this agreement and ignored the strong opposition from Congressional trade leaders to such action” .
The proximity of the American election, which on the next 3 days will define whether the United States will be led in the next 4 years by Donald Trump or by the Democratic rival Joe Biden, also entered the debate about the agreements with Brazil.
“In what may be the eleventh hour of the Trump administration,” said Richard Neal, “the USTR scoffed at Congress to undermine the values and position of the United States in the world.”
The criticism was reinforced by Earl Blumenauer, head of the US Chamber of Deputies’ trade subcommittee, linked to the commission led by Neal.
He went further than his party colleague and classified Bolsonaro as a “pseudoditator”.
“President Jair Bolsonaro’s terrible record in human rights, environment and corruption is the reason why Democrats on the Committee have long opposed a trade agreement or an expanded economic partnership with Brazil,” said Blumenauer, also in a note. .
“The USTR’s actions are not only a slap in the face of the lawmakers who outlined these concerns, but also bad business for the United States. At the same time that we obtain minimal and unworkable measures to facilitate trade with a pseudodictor, Bolsonaro gains legitimacy and ability to foster a closer relationship with the most powerful nation in the world, “he continued.
“This makes our relationships cheaper and reduces our moral standing in the world,” continued the parliamentarian.
Today, according to its official website, the American House Tax Affairs Committee is made up of 24 Democratic and 17 Republican parliamentarians.
Founded in 1802, it is responsible for defining federal spending on public policies and drafting rules on tariffs and trade agreements in the USA.
Historically, the group has brought together important politicians in the country – 8 of its former members became US presidents, 21 were presidents of the Chamber of Deputies and 4 became judges of the American Supreme Court.
The approval of its members depends on all possible trade agreements signed by the United States, including so-called “fast tracks”, or treaties that do not go through amendments in Congress.
Last Tuesday, in a conversation with the Brazilian press in Washington, the Brazilian ambassador to the USA played down rumors about a possible democratic response to the agreements – which include “denunciation clauses” that, in theory, would allow their revocation.
Questioned by BBC News Brasil, Nestor Forster said that a possible revocation “seems unlikely”.
“It does not seem likely to me because support for the agreement is supraparty and there was a permanent work by the private sector staff, who supported us a lot. For example, the Chamber of Commerce, they have regular and routine conversations with the benches of the two parties, including with the staff of the House budget committee, whose Democratic members sent that letter to the commercial representative opposing a comprehensive agreement, “said the ambassador.
“We at the embassy responded by trying to answer two or three points that were dealt with perhaps in an exaggerated way and trying to clear the ground for a conversation. And we invited parliamentarians to talk to us about any of these issues so that we can provide clarifications that we think fit. , undoing misperceptions, exaggerations and, in the end, agreeing to disagree. “
In the assessment of the head of Brazilian diplomacy in the USA, the recently signed treaties are “public policies adopted sovereignly by the Brazilian government, a democratically elected government, with a vibrant Parliament, a diligent society, a more than vibrant press”.
Regarding the debate with opponents, he says that “this is done almost routinely”.
“I don’t see any difficulty, I don’t see a movement that might want to undo this (the agreement), because it is evidently a type of agreement that is win-win, the advantages are mutual, reciprocal and both the private sector in Brazil and on the side of the United States is very satisfied, “he continued.
What the package says
Signed by the Itamaraty, the Ministry of Economy and the Office of the US Trade Representative, the Protocol on Trade Rules and Transparency provides, fundamentally, for the abolition of non-tariff barriers in bilateral trade.
Although in practice they do not reduce rates imposed on imports and exports of products, the measures could reduce exporters’ current expenses by up to 20%, according to spokesmen for the Brazilian business community.
The main changes are based on three main axes.
The first provides for the simplification or extinction of bureaucratic procedures, known in business jargon as trade facilitation.
Then, the act includes the adoption of “good regulatory practices”, which prohibit, for example, the regulatory agencies of each country to change product rules without exporters from the other country being able to manifest themselves in advance.
Finally, the agreements detail the adoption of anti-corruption measures between the two sides.
“Together, these instruments demonstrate the commitment of the two countries to the fundamental elements necessary for fair trade practices: the publication of information, giving interested parties an opportunity to provide input on the rules, the establishment of efficient and transparent processes at the border and the surveillance against corruption “, informed the Itamaraty, in a note.
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