Posted by Mary Wimberley on 2010-10-04

Brazil is open for business and is welcoming of foreign investors, especially American enterprise, a Brazilian judge said at Samford University Wednesday, Sept. 29.

“Brazil is considered a friendly environment for foreign investments,” said Maria Cristina Zucchi, a justice of Brazil’s Sao Paulo State Supreme Court, adding that her nation attracts companies from all over the world who want to take advantage of business opportunities.

The Latin American nation, which has the world’s ninth largest economy, has weathered recent global financial troubles better than most nations, she said.

During the 2008 economic crisis, for instance, Brazil was among the last nations to succumb, and the first to revive. While the global situation reduced Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) in Brazil just as it did in other countries, prospects look good for recovery, said Zucchi, who attributes part of the quick recovery to the nation’s conservative micro-economic policies.

Zucchi’s talk on Brazilian law and business was presented as a feature of Samford’s Brock School of Business International Business Speaker Series. Zucchi was at Samford Sept. 28-Oct. 1 as the inaugural Distinguished International Scholar at Cumberland School of Law, where she has been both a student and teacher in its master of comparative law program. She is one of 14 women justices on the 360-member Sao Paulo state supreme court.

Starting a business in Brazil is getting easier, she said. The government has implemented incentives to encourage national and foreign investments, especially as relate to social and economic developments, and may involve tax benefits in less developed parts of the country. Attracting foreign investors to fund infrastructure projects is a priority, she said.

And although tax regulations can be burdensome, the tax rules don’t differentiate between national and foreign businesses. The same is true of many other policies and regulations. “Whatever impediments there may be, they apply to both domestic and foreign firms,” said Zucchi, who has been a leader in legal reform in Brazil.

Zucchi discussed matters specific to various business sectors, including banking--which some scholars refer to as the country’s “fourth power,” media and communications, insurance and aviation.

The Brazilian insurance sector has been open to foreign investors since 1996, she said, and a 2007 law eliminated a state monopoly on foreign insurance companies.  While insurance companies are major business players, they have also caused additional work for the judiciary, she said.

“There is a concern that some don’t respect clients’ rights. They just want to earn money,” said Zucchi, adding that an effort is being made to right the wrongs, “without closing doors that have been opened.”

While the Brazilian court system has been overburdened, with about 18 billion “records” waiting to be decided, efforts have been made to use arbitration and mediation to resolve disputes more quickly, she said.

Zucchi contrasted aspects of her nation’s civil law system with America’s legal process. While the U.S. has one constitution with 27 amendments, Brazil is now on its 8th constitution. In place for 22 years, the current one already as 66 amendments. And the constitution is not easy to change, she said, since each amendment must have approval of three-fifths of the national legislative body.

Zucchi also spoke to a variety of law classes on various issues of comparative law. She holds a Master of Comparative Law degree from Cumberland, which offers the MCL program to non-U.S. judges, lawyers and academics to gain a perspective on the U.S. legal system by studying a comparison of laws in the U.S. and their own country.

An attorney before she was a judge, Zucchi lectures in the MCL program on the Samford campus each June, and has been helpful in Brazil on Cumberland’s behalf, said Mike Floyd, professor and director of international studies at the law school.


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