Last April 22nd we had the pleasure of hosting the second edition of the Latin American Conference. The main objective of the Conference was to discuss how different organizations are adapting to this new environment in which Latin America is not growing as fast as before while, in contrast, Europe is starting to recover after the recession of 2008.
With this purpose in mind, the Spanish Secretary of State for International Cooperation and Latin America, Mr. Jesús Gracia Aldaz opened the event. Mr. Gracia highlighted the change in the paternalism model in which was based the relation in the 70’s to the current collaborative model. Also, he pointed out the consistent efforts made by Spain in the last 45 years to contribute the development of Latin American nations, emphasizing that “Latin America has not been important for the European Union as a whole, however, the consistent efforts made by Spain and Portugal in order to strength the relationship are showing results“. Finally, Mr. Gracia focused the attention in the future relationship and how them are supported by our similarities, mentioning that “It is impossible to understand Latin America without understanding Spain, and it is impossible to understand Spain without understanding Latin America“.
A discussion panel moderated by IE Professor Dr. Gonzalo Garland followed the opening speech. The objective and the participants of the panel were:
Welcome to Latin America 2015: A new scenario with increased complexity?
- Alejandro Alvarez von Gustedt (Representative in Europe and Banco Interamericano de Desarrollo BID)
- Miguel Angel Cortés (Former Spanish Secretary of State for International Cooperation and Latin America)
- Ángel Melguizo (Head of the Latin American and Caribbean Unit at OECD)
- Germán Ríos (Director of Strategic Affairs at Corporación Andina de Fomento CAF)
The panel generated a very interesting discussion in a variety of topics. One of them was the overvaluation of the region’s growth potential, challenging Latin America to implement reforms in order to improve productivity, including labor reforms, educational reforms, to increase taxes from 21% of the GDP to the OECD standard of 35% of the GDP, among others.
In the Q&A session the panelists explained the “demographic opportunity” that Latin America has. Latin America is one of the few regions that have enough young population to sustain the economy. However, there are tasks to do in order to take advantage of the opportunity. For example, Colombia has excellent demographic potential; nevertheless, if the statistics were based only in the formal economy, the country would have the demographic statistics of Japan.
After this panel, there was a short break, followed by the second panel, moderated by IE Professor Dr. Juan Carlos Martínez Lázaro. The following was the objective and the participants of the panel:
How business are adapting to the new environment?
- Juan Ignacio Entrecanales (Vice Chairman of Acciona Group)
- Luis de Carlos (Managing Partner at Uria Menéndez and Chairman of Fundación Iberoamericana Empresarial)
- Francisco González (Ernest & Young EY Global Council Member and Partner – Spain-Latam Hub Responsible)
- Luciana Taft (Senior Manager at the Economics and Strategy Unit at CEMEX)
This more business-oriented panel agreed that the investment opportunities remain abundant in Latin America. However, Mr. González disagreed with the previous panel regarding the need of increasing taxes up to 35%, arguing that governments need to demonstrate that they will be able to use the resources efficiently. Morever, most of the speakers highlighted the importance of the Alianza del Pacífico (Pacific Alliance), as a conglomerate of countries that share fast development and good investment opportunities. Finally, they provided insights about the need of additional investment in innovation, mentioning that last year Latin America registered 1,200 patents compared to the 10,000 patents registered only in South Korea.
The closing speech was in charge of the Ambassador of Colombia to Spain, Mr. Fernando Carrillo Florez. Mr. Carrillo signaled the need of improving the inequality records in the region. He added that “Before, the first challenge for Latin American countries was to implement responsible fiscal policies at state level”, and now that the region has succeed on it, “We need to focus on reducing the income inequality”. Mr. Carrillo dedicated time to appreciate and thank the IE community for the support provided after the death of the former Colombian IE Alumni Javier Camelo in the terrorist attack occurred this year in Tunisia.
As Latin American Club, we would like to thank to the fantastic speakers that participated in the event, to the IE professors that helped us not only with the panel moderation, but also contacting the speakers for the event, to the IE Foundation and IE Campus Life representatives and volunteers that helped us with the logistics, and finally to the attendance of such excellent participation.
Thanks to the support of Agora News, the LATAM Conference counted with live streaming. In this 5-minutes video  you will find a summary of the event and interviews with the speakers about the topics covered.