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In April 2019, the ABCI Institute – Brazilian International Trade Scholars, Inc. completed 15 years of history. It has been a rich history since April 2, 2004, when an informal study group of Brazilian attorneys, economists and other professionals practicing or studying international trade law or policy in the Washington, D.C. area got together to discuss the latest developments on international trade and its most pressing issues. The group had then 12 original founding members, namely : Adriana Vito, Aluisio de Lima-Campos, Angela T. Gobbi Estrella, Claudia Marques, Juscelino Colares, Luciano Fialho de Pinho, Pablo Bentes, Paola Ribeiro, Patricia Toledo, Rafael Benke, Renê Medrado and Verônica D’Almeida.

That first meeting was fully supported by Ambassador Roberto Abdenur, who had just assumed the Embassy of Brazil in Washington, D.C., and enthusiastically embraced the idea of creating such discussion group. The initiative, in his view, would contribute to form high level professionals in international trade law and policy in Brazil, which was in short order at the time.

Between then and now, ABCI has widely expanded its membership and collected a significant list of accomplishments, towards achieving its mission of disseminating knowledge, promoting research and encouraging study of international trade law and policy.

That initial meeting led to more than 150 periodical meetings for which trade experts were invited to speak. Some prominent trade lawyers, like Gary Horlick, Gabrielle Marceau, Terry Stewart, Richard Cunningham, Jost Pauwelyn, David Palmeter, Scott Andersen, Simon Lester, Niall Meagher, and Walter Spak shared their knowledge and experience with the ABCI membership. So did notable economists and authorities like Gary Hufbauer, Michael Finger, Dan Ikenson, Marcos Jank, Thomas Prusa, Robert Rogowski, Will Martin, Laura Baughman, Ambassador Botafogo Gonçalves, Ambassador Roberto Abdenur, and Victor do Prado. Eminent Professors like John Jackson, Vera Thorstensen, Carolina Munhoz, Welber Barral also honored our members with their participation. In addition, members dedicated many of those meetings to presentations as a way to promote debate on important issues and, in turn, encourage academic and professional development.

In February 2005, ABCI organized its first annual Symposium at the Georgetown University Law Center. It was a great success. Professor Jackson and other Georgetown Law faculty attended, as well as students, diplomats, Congressional staff members, Government and Think Tank trade specialists. Professor Jagdish Bhagwati, from Columbia University was the keynote speaker. Since then, the Symposium has become an annual tradition and premier trade event in Washington, D.C. From 2006 to 2009, its venue was the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, whose support we greatly appreciated, first through the good offices Luis Bitencourt and later through Paulo Sotero. All subsequent editions of this great event were, and still are held, at the American University Washington College of Law where it became an important part of its international trade agenda. Big kudos to former Dean Claudio Grossman and to Professor Padideh Ala’i, director of the International Law Program, for their unwavering support and participation.

The symposium annually brings the top names in international trade law and policy to Washington for a full day of discussion on the most critical issues for world trade. Distinguished diplomats that honored us with their participation include Ambassadors Julio Lacarte, Clodoaldo Hugueney, Sergio Amaral, José Graça Lima, Juan Gabriel Valdés, Ernesto Araújo, Nestor Forster and Roberto Azevêdo. Eminent economists, lawyers and trade specialists have enriched our body of speakers over the years. Worthy of mention are: Fred Bergsten, Timothy Reif, Jeffrey Schott, Otaviano Canuto, John Magnus, Andrew Shoyer, Matthew Nicely, James Bacchus, Joseph Gagnon, Bernard Hoekman, Uri Dadush, José Guilherme Reis, Ricardo Ramirez, Ana Caetano, Chad Bown, Grant Aldonas, Abdel-Hamid Mamdouh, Michael Gadbaw, Nancy Boswell, Joshua Meltzer, Hu Tao, Dan Griswold, Anabel González and Claude Barfield.

In 2005, ABCI launched its members’ first collection of articles on international trade entitled “Ensaios em Comércio Internacional, Volume 1.” (“International Trade Essays”) that was published in Brazil, by Editora Singular. Its preface was by Ambassador Roberto Abdenur and covered topics like antidumping, trade disputes and multilateral negotiations. In 2006, came Volume 2, with preface by John Jackson, discussing topics like arbitration, bioterrorism, trade barriers, trade policy and dispute settlement. For both books, launching events followed in Rio, São Paulo, Belo Horizonte and Florianópolis. It was a successful experience and ABCI’s recognition as an international trade think tank grew in Brazil. Its membership also grew from 12 founding members in 2004 to 35 by the end of 2006 and to 109 by now.

As demand for greater international trade knowledge by Brazilian professionals expanded, in early 2006, ABCI members decided to convert the group into a non-profit corporation and reach for objectives that are more ambitious. With the support of the law firm Arnold & Porter and its partners Whitney Debevoise and later Gregory Herrington to provide pro-bono legal services to ABCI and due to the expert work of Suzana Medeiros, who was an associate at the firm and ABCI member, the corporation was formed on January 31, 2006. The ABCI Institute – Brazilian International Trade Scholars, Inc. was incorporated in the District of Columbia as a non-profit corporation organized to operate exclusively for charitable and educational purposes.

Since becoming a non-profit corporation, the ABCI celebrated a number of cooperation agreements with Brazilian institutions primarily. They include Centro de Estudos Brasileiros de Relações Internacionais (CEBRI), Federação das Indústrias do Estado do Rio de Janeiro (FIRJAN), do Rio Grande do Sul (FIERGS), e de São Paulo (FIESP), FGV-Direito São Paulo, FGV e Instituto Veris – IBMEC São Paulo. The parties in each agreement have agreed to cooperate in educational activities in the area of international trade in general, including, but not limited to, trade policy, trade promotion, trade remedies and tariffs, by means of the following activities: a) organization of symposiums, conferences, lectures, seminars, and specialization and continuing education courses; b) exchange of information, knowledge, opportunities, and institutional experiences about topics of common interest; c) promotion and collaboration in research and studies for educational purposes; d) cooperation to update know-how and learning methodologies; e) cooperation to promote activities and projects of common interest; f) collaboration with institutional support for the organization of joint symposiums, conferences, seminars, lectures and courses; and g) exchange of reports, newsletters, and publications in general.

In August 2013, the ABCI Institute concluded an MOA with the American University Washington College of Law “to explore cooperative academic initiatives between the two institutions, including but not limited to, organizing seminars for the purpose of training Brazilian trade government officials and trade practitioners in the United States and international trade regulation, as well as cooperating with the international trade initiatives undertaken by the AU WCL with the goal of enhancing the global opportunities for AU WCL students as well as promoting scholarly exchange and development aimed at addressing the particularly difficult challenges facing the international global economy.” Under the MOA, and with the full support of then Dean Claudio Grossman, the ABCI Institute moved its headquarters from the Embassy of Brazil, where it had been since 2004, owing to the support of Ambassador Roberto Abdenur (2004-2006) and his substitute Ambassador Antonio Patriota (2007-2009), to its new offices in the WCL campus. While before the MOA meetings were held on a rotation basis at the Chancellery of the Brazilian Embassy and prominent law firms such as Arnold & Porter, Sidley Austin, Steptoe and Johnson, Thompson Hine and others, from August 2013 on, all regular meetings were and are now being held at the AU WCL. In pace with the times, such meetings that were previously recorded in written minutes until a few years ago, are now video recorded and broadcasted live through the internet.

As we enter a new decade within a unique international trade landscape, ABCI’s purpose and outreach remain intact, but its means of communicating with members and with the external community is being enhanced. In line with the preferred means of communication among Brazilian professionals, ABCI will promote discussions among members and share members’ work within its network, such as through a WhatsApp group.[1] The sharing of members’ work to the outside world will rely on ABCI’s social media pages (i.e., LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter). The institute gathers an incredible amount of knowledge and expertise in international trade among its members, particularly regarding U.S and Brazil’s trade actions and policy. We want the exchange of information to be as easy and convenient as possible to the amazing professionals that form this group.

[1] If you wish to be included in WhatsApp group please reach out to Board by “Contacting Us”

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