International Commercial Arbitration in Brazil - A Primer

By:  Richard F. Paciaroni, K&L Gates, Pittsburgh

Background

Pre-1980 Brazil could rightly be said to have been hostile towards arbitration, clinging to the “Calvo doctrine” which did not permit foreigners any different treatment than Latin American nationals.  In the late 1980’s, however, Brazil began to emerge from its shell and take its first steps towards a more modern approach in respect of international arbitration.

The first movement towards modernization was Brazil’s ratification of the Panama Convention in 1995, closely followed by: (1) the adoption, in 1996, of its own national arbitration law, Law No. 9.307, 23 September 1996 (the “Arbitration Act”) and (2) the adoption of the Mercosur Protocol in 1998, all of which set the stage for modern arbitration practice in Brazil.  While the new Arbitration Act was enacted in 1996, it took another five years to come into full force due to a constitutional challenge lodged in the Brazilian Supreme Court, which ultimately decided, in December 2001, that the Arbitration Act was constitutional.  After 2001, the Brazilian courts have routinely enforced arbitration clauses in commercial contracts, thus bringing Brazil in line with internationally accepted standards.  With the ratification of the New York Convention in July 2002, Brazil joined the family of nations who offer a viable legislative and enforcement framework for international arbitration proceedings.

Further adding to the acceptance and visibility of the arbitration practice in Brazil are the actions of the Brazilian Arbitration Committee (“CBAr”) which has taken steps in recent years to promote international arbitration in Brazil by forming relationships with international institutions like the ICC, LCIA and ICDR and by holding major conferences in Brazilian cities, such as the ICCA bi-annual convention which was held in Rio de Janeiro in 2010.  What follows is a brief summary of the key points of the Arbitration Act and various court decisions that provide support for international commercial arbitration in Brazil.

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