Three years had passed since the last edition of a forum which, in what has become a tradition at the week-long United Nations General Assembly in New York, brings together political and financial leaders from both sides of the Atlantic at the invitation of EL PAÍS and the Spain-United States Chamber of Commerce. And what three years it has been: a pandemic that has brought the world to a standstill, shortages and disruptions in supply chains – all unprecedented in the history of globalization – inflation more typical of ancient times, central banks desperate to try to turn the tide and a war in Europe that threatens to trigger a global food crisis. All of these concerns provided a somewhat somber backdrop to the speeches and interviews at the fifth edition of the meeting, held last Thursday at the Yale Club in Manhattan and sponsored by Abertis, Baker & McKenzie, Hiberus and Iberia. with the cooperation of the Organization of Ibero-American States (OEI).
Two world leaders were present at the event, Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez and Colombian President Gustavo Petro, who closed a session held under the title Latin America, the United States and Spain in the global economy, where they talked about climate change, logistics, energy transition, tourism and education, among other topics. The prospect of transatlantic relations was also discussed at the forum, which Spanish Foreign Minister José Manuel Albares described as crucial for “dealing with the complex geopolitical panorama of the present”.
It was inevitable that geopolitics would dominate the debates when Sánchez and Petro took to the podium. New York had woken up that morning full of world leaders, faced with a partial mobilization of 300,000 people in Russia – the country’s first use of such a measure since World War II – threats from Vladimir Putin to resort to nuclear force and the so-called referendums in the pro-Russian region of Donbass in Ukraine. The Spanish Prime Minister condemned the Kremlin’s rhetoric, reaffirmed Spain’s commitment to the defense of Ukraine and issued a warning: “We are entering a critical phase: Putin knows he is losing the war.
In this new reality, Sánchez added, the best approach is to continue to work as a team, as part of the coalition of the European Union, the United States and the other members of the G7. Not only in terms of the war in Ukraine, but also in terms of navigating the turbulent waters of an economic panorama that does not look too promising but in which Spain, according to Sánchez’s “cautious optimism”, is in a “better position than other European economies”. .”
“[Spain] has grown above the EU average this year,” he said. “The consensus is that we will exceed 4% in 2022 and 2% in 2023. We have 330,000 more people at work than last year. Our unemployment rate is at its lowest since 2008. The percentage of temporary jobs is less than 20% and we are changing a dynamic of historical precariousness. The tourism sector is now practically at the same level as before the pandemic. Exports of goods increased by 20%. We have considerably stronger foundations than in the past, and homes and businesses are much less indebted. Our country is much more resilient. These figures inspire confidence in the Spanish economy as a location for investment.
Petro, for his part, took advantage of an interview with the director of EL PAÍS América, Jan Martínez Ahrens, to continue the theme of a provocative speech he gave the day before at the UN – an environmental plea in which he questioned the war on drugs – and to make his first statement on Ukraine, 45 days after being elected Colombia’s first left-wing president. Petro said he would align himself with a common front with his Mexican counterpart, Andrés Manuel López Obrador, which will take the form of a statement calling for the creation of a UN committee to declare a ceasefire. fire in Ukraine for at least five years. “Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is as bad as those of Syria and Iraq,” he concluded.
Another of the key topics covered in his speech at the UN. The Latin American continent was at the forefront from the start of the day’s events, led by Joseph Oughourlian, president of Prisa, the parent company that publishes EL PAÍS, which he describes as a “multi-Latin” company that derives 70% of its revenues and results from the region. “We decided to invest heavily in the region over the past few years,” Oughourlian said. As a result, EL PAÍS, with the support of the rest of Prisa, has strengthened its newsrooms and editions in Mexico, Colombia, Chile and Argentina, as well as its presence in the United States.
In order to help Spanish companies establish themselves in the land of opportunities, one of the main missions of the Spain-United States Chamber of Commerce is to facilitate “the connection of a wide network of business organizations , government officials, business professionals and associations, and eminent dignitaries,” with the aim of strengthening commercial ties between the two countries, House Speaker Alan D. Solomont said during his speech.
“Spain is and will remain Europe’s gateway to Latin America,” said Minister Albares, while promising to use Spain’s Presidency of the Council of the European Union in 2023 to further strengthen these links. The ties between Spain and Latin America were also praised by the Costa Rican Minister of Foreign Trade, Manuel Tovar, who reinforced his country’s position as “the island of sustainability, environmental protection and respect for workers’ rights”, in the increasingly convulsive context of the central crisis. America, where authoritarian accents resound among the neighbors of Costa Rica, Nicaragua and El Salvador. In economic terms, Tovar announced that Costa Rica would increasingly turn to the Pacific trade front thanks to its ties with countries such as Ecuador. “Unfortunately, our continent remains too poorly integrated,” he said.
Faced with the reality of the current global situation, Christian Asinelli, Vice President of the CAF-Development Bank Latin America Strategic Program, said that Latin America and the Caribbean could further strengthen its position as a “region of solutions”. for the uncertainties arising from the consequences of the pandemic and the war in Ukraine. “We are capable of accelerating the energy transition,” Asinelli said, and as such he presented the multilateral CAF as a valuable tool for the future. “Some member countries have gas reserves that facilitate the energy transition and there is capacity for hydroelectric projects that will be used to increase food production,” he added.
Faced with this reality, Christian Asinelli, corporate vice-president of strategic programming at CAF-Development Bank of Latin America, opted to strengthen Latin America and the Caribbean as a “region of solutions” to uncertainties arising from the pandemic and the war in Ukraine. “We are able to promote the energy transition”, explained Asinelli, and for this he applied to the multilateral organization for which he works as a tool for the future. “Some member countries have gas reserves that can help with the energy transition, and there is capacity for water projects that can increase food production,” he added.
Mariano Jabonero, Secretary General of OEI, presented the education perspective and called for a broader commitment to the digitalization of education to bridge the gap between education and productivity. Jabonero advocates a hybrid education, in which digital transformation would be strengthened, broadband access and technological skills of teachers would be improved, and household access to the Internet would be increased. “The future is virtual, technological and digital. It is an educational challenge, but also a political and economic one,” he said.
Tim Robertson, CEO of logistics giant DHL in the Americas, provided an optimistic note among so many bleak forecasts. His company belongs to one of the sectors hardest hit at the start of the pandemic, when it seemed that countries were paradigmatic closing in on themselves. But the logistics sector has also discovered that out of adversity is born the virtue of e-commerce, which has taken a giant leap forward in these days of confinement and uncertainty. Supply chains then showed their most fragile side, but Robertson believes international cargo capacity will return to pre-pandemic levels by the end of this winter. “These two and a half years have been terrible, but they have at least served to demonstrate the essential role of trade in improving people’s quality of life. This, he added, was in part due to the logistics industry, which had no choice but to prove its “resilience” – a recent buzzword that was among the most commonly spoken in New York. York last week.