Interview with Journalist Zhao Yan, published in the “Xinhua News Agency”, February 2009.
Por: Cheng Weihua and Zhao Yan – Xinhua News Agency
Chinese traditional music can be heard around the large office of Durval de Noronha. “I listen to the Chinese music everyday and this music with its slow rhythm helps me to relax.” The reputable Brazilian lawyer told the journalists of Xinhua News Agency as such.
The first Brazilian lawyer to set up a Representative Office in China
Noronha Advogados is the seventh biggest law firm in Brazil and has branches in Miami, London, Buenos Aires and Lisbon, in addition to the main Brazilian cities. For trade between China and Brazil, Noronha Advogados has a unique position and a very good reputation. All these achievements are due to a “strange” decision made by Mr. Noronha.
Mr. Noronha recalled that “after China joined WTO in 2001, I wrote a book—China after WTO: laws and trade, which deals closely with the changes to the 9000 clauses of the economic laws by the Chinese government. We noticed that since China joined the WTO, on the one hand, the Chinese legal structure has become more modernized; and on the other hand, China is no longer discriminated against in the international trading system. Of course, there are many business opportunities for Brazilian enterprises in China. Based on this judgment, we decided to enter into the Chinese market.”
He continues, while smiling, “When we set up a Representative Office in Shanghai, a lot of people could not understand, some people even considered that our decision was strange and not reasonable. However, now everyone recognizes our foresight. ”
Noronha Advogados became the first Brazilian law firm to set up a representative office in China and has been dealing with many legal cases in relation to the trading issues between China and Brazil. Now, the proportion of Chinese business at the firm has been increased incredibly. As a consequence, Noronha Advogados has not only employed a number of Chinese lawyers, but also plans to establish a second Representative Office in Beijing, in order to promote the Chinese market.
Tackling the trade disputes between China and Brazil through legal measures
The distance between China and Brazil is far; however, as the two biggest developing countries in the Northern and Southern Hemisphere, they have developed and increased their mutual trade. Last year, China took over from Argentina to become the second largest trading partner of Brazil.
In recent years, with the development of trade between China and Brazil, there have been some unpleasant disputes. Mr. Noronha—an Arbitrator with the WTO pointed out that: “China is the biggest victim of Brazilian protectionism; 2/3 cases of the disputes dealt with us were related to trade protectionism and I do not think this is fair for the Chinese companies.”
Taking the example of footwear, Noronha said: “at present, some Brazilian companies have requested the government to launch an anti-dumping investigation on Chinese footwear. Due to the fact that in practice Brazil has not recognized China as a market economy, they have taken Italian products as a reference, which will be very unfair for the Chinese companies.”
He believes that the core issue is that the Chinese legal system needs to be accepted by Brazil and in this respect, China need to push Brazil to recognize it as a market economy.
As an expert in trade between China and Brazil, Mr. Noronha thinks that both China and Brazil have been affected by the global financial crisis, however, it may turn out to be a huge opportunity for the two countries to move towards wider cooperation. He said: “we have the same opportunity due to our huge internal markets. Brazil has rich natural resources and Chinese companies will have opportunities to explore these resources and do business in relation to infrastructure. At the same time, Chinese enterprises may also promote their products in the Brazilian market.”
The behind-the-scene supporter of the Confucius Institute in Sao Paulo
Mr. Noronha is also a lover of Chinese culture. Apart from listening to Chinese traditional music during his working time, he also likes to collect Chinese antiques. There is a meeting room which is named “the Chinese Room” at his firm. Mr. Noronha has collected many Chinese artifacts, including an ancient Chinese model weapon, and a 19th Century Chinese map. These are decorated on the walls and tables, which gives the meeting room a distinctly Chinese feel.
He also hopes that more and more people will share his Chinese interest. Last year, UNESP Confucius Institute—the first Confucius Institute in Brazil, was formally launched and Mr. Noronha has made a great contribution to it. Currently, Mr. Noronha has contacted a university in Recife and hopes to set up the Confucius Institute in more cities, in order to spread Chinese culture.
In addition, Mr. Noronha is preparing a new Chinese book, which will be published and distributed in the Spanish speaking countries this year. He said: “I like learning about Chinese law and the Confucius philosophy, and I am writing an academic article for the Chinese 60-year anniversary in relation to those unfair treaties signed in the 19th Century.”
Why has a lawyer paid so much attention to Chinese culture? Mr. Noronha explained that in order to improve the economic and trade relationship between China and Brazil, it is very important to facilitate mutual understanding; and cultural exchange is the best way of doing this. He said: “the challenge we are facing is that the entrepreneurs from the two countries do not know each other well. Therefore, we need to communicate by means of language and culture. Only by doing this, will the mutual relationship make good progress in five, ten or even twenty years.”