UN leader says Caribbean nations need to boost trade and technology activity

Alicia Bárcena, ECLAC Executive Secretary, at the World Economic Forum 2017 meeting.
World Economic Forum

The executive secretary of the United Nations Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC) wants regional integration promoted in specific areas beyond trade.

In addressing the World Economic Forum on the region here, Alicia Bárcena said the current global economic and political context presents “sharp tensions and uncertainties.” She added that therefore, it is not possible to keep doing “business as usual.” Bárcena was the main speaker on a panel about Caribbean and Latin American regional strategy.

The senior United Nations official noted that regional involvement in global trade is very low, stating that the region only has a 6 percent share of global exports, compared with developing Asia’s 31 percent. She said the situation is “compounded by the end of the so-called commodities “supercycle” and the fact that, in the majority of countries in the region, less than 1 percent of companies export.

“For that reason, at ECLAC, we contend that integration must be strengthened beyond the exchange of goods,” she said. “We must make progress on trade facilitation, on participation in value chains, on integration of infrastructure and energy, as well as in the technological and digital area.”

During the panel discussion on “Building a Regional Digital Market,” Bárcena urged that the region move toward development, according to ECLAC.

“Second generation public-private alliances are key to propelling integrated digital markets at a regional and sub-regional level in Latin America and the Caribbean,” she said, adding that the development of technological and digital platforms allows for “fomenting productive diversification, growth in productivity and for leveraging the fourth industrial revolution with greater scale, connection, access and dissemination of content.”

“The platforms of new information technologies improve the region’s competitiveness by modernizing infrastructure networks,” she said.

Bárcena said that the Sixth Ministerial Conference on the Information Society in Latin America and the Caribbean (the ECLAC 2018 meeting) will be held in Colombia next year, with the support of that country’s Ministry of Information and Communications Technology.

In addition to underscoring the importance of the 2030 United Nations Agenda for Sustainable Development, the conference’s agenda will be fundamental” for the region of Latin America and the Caribbean, the executive secretary said.

“This is a long-term agenda with very concrete goals: Eliminate extreme poverty – which affects 75 million people in our region – give electricity to the 23 million people who do not have it, deliver food security, guarantee a healthy life and care for people’s cycle of life from birth to death, among other things,” Bárcena said.

She reminded delegates that ECLAC and the Mexican government are organizing the first meeting of the Forum of the Countries of Latin America and the Caribbean on Sustainable Development, scheduled to be held April 26-28 in Mexico City

“We invite all countries and civil society organizations to participate in this forum,” Bárcena said. “It will be the first gathering of its kind in the world; it is a unique opportunity to reflect upon what our development strategy will be.”

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