Circular Economy and Trade: Perspectives from Brazil and the EU

On 15 March 2024, the Globalisation and Law Network and the Institute for Globalisation and International Regulation (IGIR), together with the Brazilian Foreign Trade Council (CAMEX), and the support of IDP (Instituto Brasileiro de Ensino, Desenvolvimento e Pesquisa), UniCeub (Centro Universitário de Brasília) and the Brazilian Ministry of Planning, organised a roundtable on Circular Economy and Trade, promoting a discussion about circular economy regulations in the European Union and Brazil among representatives from the public and private sector, and academia.

Experts and the international community agree on the need to transition from a linear “take-make-dispose” economy to a circular economy to address environmental planetary crisis. A circular economy – where materials and products are reused and regenerated – can also foster socioeconomic development. The transition to a circular economy may create new trade opportunities and risks, including for trading partners.  The shift from a linear to a circular economy raises important questions, such as: How to design circular regulations? How can domestic circular economy initiatives be coordinated at a bilateral or multilateral level to avoid trade disruptions? How can trade policies and regulations enable an inclusive transition that leaves no one behind? Representatives from the public sector and academia aimed to answer these questions in relation to regulations that are being proposed in the EU and in Brazil.

The event's opening remarks were made by the Executive Secretary of the Brazilian Foreign Trade Council, Marcela Carvalho, who highlighted the shift in Brazilian foreign trade policy to align the promotion of trade and investment with the protection of the environment and a transition to a circular economy. Professor André Nunes Chaib, from Maastricht University, Faculty of Law, also introduced the event, explaining how the idea of the Roundtable was conceived as a space to open up a dialogue about trade and the circular economy that involves the public and private sector and academia.

The first part of the event was chaired by Heloisa Pereira, Undersecretary of Trade Policy at the Brazilian Foreign Trade Council. It consisted of an introduction to the EU’s circular economy policy by the Director of the Directorate-general for internal markets, industries, entrepreneurship, and SMEs at the European Commission, Joaquim Nunes de Almeida. He addressed the key points of the EU Eco-Design for Sustainable Products Regulation (ESPR). Professor Dominic Coppens, from Maastricht University Faculty of Law, followed him and explained the proposal for revising the Packaging and Packaging Waste Regulation (PPWR) and highlighted how the new rules might impact European and Brazilian companies. The discussant of this topic was Renata Amaral, Secretary for International Affairs and Development at the Brazilian Ministry of Planning. Amaral pointed to the three pillars of Brazil's current economic and trade policy - economic viability, social equity, and environmental protection – and expressed concerns regarding the future implementation of the new European regulations/proposals to import products from Brazil. Nunes de Almeida acknowledged these regulations' impact on trade but pointed to the digital product passport project and the conformity assessment system as tools to facilitate implementation and compliance from importers and exporters.

The second part of the event was moderated by Belén Gracia, PhD Candidate at Maastricht University, Faculty of Law, and it addressed the Brazilian policies and proposals for regulation on circular economy. First, Lucas Maciel, Deputy Secretary for the Green Economy at the Brazilian Ministry of Development, Industry, Trade and Services, referred to the Ministry’s industry programme, which includes bio-economy, decarbonisation, and energy transition, and has as one of its objectives the promotion of the circular economy through the “Agenda Brasil +Sustentável.” Maciel also pointed to Brazil’s National Policy on Circular Economy - Bill 1,874/2022, which was recently approved by the Commission on Economic Affairs of the Brazilian Senate and sent to the plenary to be discussed urgently – and the work that the government is doing to anticipate the implementation of the bill by creating a circular economy national strategy with a concrete action plan. After that, Adalberto Felicio Maluf Filho, National Secretary of Urban Environment and Environmental Quality at the Brazilian Ministry of the Environment, addressed the main policy lines of the Ministry, including the National Climate Change Plan and Reverse Logistic Plan, as well as the work done under the framework of the G20, and referred to the need to balance the interests of different stakeholders in the transition to a circular economy. Professor Dominic Coppens was the discussant of this part of the event. He suggested a regulatory approach that combines carrots and sticks to incentivise but at the same time assist the private sector in the shift from a linear to a circular economy and the need to foster the dialogue among trade partners like the EU and Brazil, as well as to collaborate at the multilateral level on these issues.

The event concluded with a Q&A session that showed great interest from the diverse audience on this topic, and the organisers indicated that there will be future online and in-person events related to the subject during the rest of the year.

Recording of the event

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