(22 January 2013) Speaking at the opening session of the First CELAC-EU Academic Summit being held until Wednesday 23 January in Santiago, Chile, the Executive Secretary of the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC), Alicia Bárcena, stated "We must build a more symmetrical, balanced and equitable relationship with Europe".
The most senior representative of this United Nations regional commission analysed the current socio-economic context of Latin American and Caribbean countries, as well as the region's opportunities for deepening its trade relations with the European Union.
She highlighted that Latin American and Caribbean countries are learning from the past, applying macroeconomic prudence and progressive social policies, while Europe is accusing the welfare society of being responsible for the economic crisis.
Speaking to representatives from over 200 universities and study centres from both regions, Ms. Bárcena affirmed "The welfare society was not the cause of the crisis, and whether it needs to be updated or reformed is a different matter. In Latin America, we aspire to a welfare society. This paradox is something we need to assess and discuss".
The Executive Secretary based her presentation on the document European Union and Latin America and the Caribbean: Investments for growth, social inclusion and environmental sustainability, which ECLAC will make available to leaders attending the First Summit of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States and the European Union (CELAC-EU) this week in the Chilean capital.
Ms. Bárcena stressed that "We want foreign investment that helps us modernize our production structure, that contributes to employment, that helps us care for the environment and that respects social rights" .
The European Union is Latin America and the Caribbean's main cooperator, largest direct investor and second trading partner. Over the past decade, the EU invested an average 30.0 billion dollars per year in Latin American and Caribbean countries. Today, the foreign direct investment (FDI) of Latin America and the Caribbean is almost 500.0 billion dollars.
Within Latin America and the Caribbean, European investment has mainly targeted South America, while the United States has been the main source of FDI received by Mexico, Central America and the Caribbean. The region's three largest economies (Brazil, Mexico and Argentina) received 80% of total investment between 2000 and 2009.
In this context, Ms. Bárcena said she values European FDI for the region that has the following three features: it promotes the transfer of technology, it includes production investment that generates jobs and is characterized by good labour practice and social corporate responsibility.
Nevertheless, she stated that the trade relationship between the two regions had stood still in recent years. What is more, it is estimated that -by the middle of this decade- China could replace Europe as the region's second trading partner. She therefore called for a bolstering of the strategic biregional partnership.
The innovation and research and development (R&D) activities of transnational European enterprises have been highly significant in Latin America and the Caribbean, and represent about 64% of all such undertakings. These activities are a means of transferring technology and knowledge, increasing local technical capacity, generating spillover productivity effects and creating highly skilled jobs.
On this topic, the ECLAC Executive Secretary emphasized that most environmental technology patents are in Europe, and Latin America and the Caribbean needs them to progress towards sustainable development. She concluded by saying that investment in areas such as energy efficiency and renewables must be prioritized.
- Full document European Union and Latin America and the Caribbean: Investments for growth, social inclusion and environmental sustainability
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