Study of Escolhas on Bioeconomics is the subject of an article of Ambassador Rubens Barbosa

Foto: Julio Bittencourt/Revista da Indústria

Analyzing the need to discuss the change of focus on public policies in the Amazon region and to defend biodiversity, Ambassador Rubens Barbosa highlights the study of Escolhas “A New Economy for the Amazon:  Bioeconomics and Manaus Free Zone”, released in October 2019. In the article, the president of the Institute of International Relations and Foreign Trade (IRICE) states that “with annual government subsidies currently rising to about R$ 25 billion, ZFM has never turned to the greatest potential of the Amazon: the forest and biodiversity”.


Rubens Barbosa*

The environmental issue has definitely entered the global agenda. And sooner or later it will again be a priority for the Brazilian government, for political realism and for pragmatic reasons. 

About the current government’s attitudes, there are growing threats of damage to the agribusiness sector due to the possibility of boycotting consumers and the growing influence of environmental policy on trade negotiations. The defense of the legitimate interests of the sector is leading the associations of the different areas and the parliamentary front of agriculture to defend more attention to the international commitments made by Brazil in the agreements signed since 1992 and, above all, a reduction of the government rhetoric and a correction of some policies announced by the government.

Critical perceptions abroad focus on the Amazon.  Recently, the burning and deforestation has been the target of demonstrations worldwide. Distorted information and half truths mingled with facts, amplifying the negative consequences for our business and political interests. Differences in the management of the Amazon Fund put international cooperation with Germany and Norway at risk.

It is not a question of sovereignty and the ability of the government to determine policies for the region. Recent worldwide demonstrations, particularly of young people, to sensitize governments to take measures to prevent major climate change with rising temperatures on the planet, include concern for the preservation of the Amazon Rain forest.

In Brazil, over the past 50 years, there has been a declared policy of governments to integrate the Amazon and create employment for the population living in the region. One of the most relevant was the creation of the Manaus Free Zone (ZFM) in the late 60’s. With annual government subsidies currently rising to about $25 billion, ZFM has never turned to the Amazon’s greatest potential: forest and biodiversity.

Subject to many questions about their results regarding forest preservation, the cost/benefit of exemptions and tax incentives, some ideas are emerging that need to be examined. All are in line with defending the Brazilian interest in defending the region’s biodiversity.

The Instituto Escolhas, under the coordination of Sergio Leitão (www.escolhas.org), presented a proposal for a new economy for the Amazon: the Manaus Free Zone and the bioeconomy. The proposal suggests a new model of sustainable development with investment incentives, diversification of economic activities and dynamization of the industrial park in order to integrate ZFM with the region’s natural vocation for technological innovation and the use of Amazonian biodiversity – the Bioeconomy.

For the preservation of the forest and the internalization of development and consumption, some guidelines were defined: scientific and technological development, focusing on innovation; sustainable use of biodiversity potential; economic decentralization and generation of social and environmental gains; dynamization of the Manaus Industrial Pole and its current model.

With public and private investments of R$ 7.15 billion over ten years – coming from concessions, public-private partnerships and others – the generation of direct and indirect jobs in the Amazon could reach 218 thousand vacancies. During the infrastructure works alone, 12 jobs would be created.

The discussion on a change of focus in the current public policies of ZFM and in the whole of Amazonas and the definition of a policy of stimulating investments in the region with the objective of leveraging technological, productive, industrial and social development can no longer be delayed, focused on tripartite research and development – government, business and academia.

The generation of innovation would start from the use of existing raw materials in the various regions of the state, with emphasis on biodiversity inputs. In order to stimulate exports and internationalize businesses, companies should be able to be competitive to ensure integration with global value chains.

The analysis of these elements resulted in the identification of four opportunities axes: bioeconomics, digital transformation economics pole, ecotourism and fish farming.

In the bioeconomy, the study suggests the dynamization of the Amazon Biotechnology Center to become a focus of excellence in the forest. Manaus could be the first bioeconomy research hub, integrated with the world’s leading research centers, with specific knowledge of tropical forest ecosystems. Research could be developed for the use of tropical wood on an industrial scale in the structural systems of construction, for the use of forest products in the fashion and textile industries, Amazonian fibers in the automobile industry and green plastics, biodiversity products in the timber industry, cosmetics, plants and insects for food tech.

The economic hub of digital transformation would be made possible by the creation of tripartite governance to structure innovation ecosystems in technology, information and communication.

Ecotourism would be developed by identifying niches of interest for scientific ecotourism.

In fish farming, it is suggested that the Amazon Biotechnology Center be promoted with lines of fish research for its use on an industrial scale in food service and premium food, in addition to the fish leather in the fashion industry.

The Ministry of Economy is studying a plan for economic development in the region to discuss the Union’s tax incentive regime, including in the context of tax reform. The proposal to associate the ZFM with the Amazon Forest biodiversity could initially complement the existing industrial activities. 

* Article originally published in the newspaper O Estado de S.Paulo ((24/Dec/2019)