Events

MERCOSUR is dead

With more than 1 million square kilometers, with a GDP of more than 4 trillion dollars and with a population of approximately 275 million inhabitants, MERCOSUR is characterized by a history of impulses and stagnation. After being born as a process that was disruptive for the time, and especially, to mark the end of the confrontation thesis between the two biggest countries of South America, MERCOSUR has been losing its impulse.

During the month of March 2016, MERCOSUR had its 25th anniversary, an event that was little promoted, which happened almost unnoticed for civil society and to which governments did not give much importance. The media, although they did not refer to this anniversary as an event of transcendence, recalled it in their publications with titles that reflect a pessimistic perspective: “25 years of MERCOSUR and very little to celebrate” (La Nación, Argentina https://goo.gl/s2ju3R), “A sad regional birthday” (El Observador, Uruguay https://goo.gl/ENlIOL), “MERCOSUR will celebrate 25 years of creation and will be without pain or glory” (ABC , Paraguay https://goo.gl/VxSKNE) or even Globo (Brazil https://goo.gl/YrL3E7) detailed that: “… the anniversary comes amid the political crisis in Brazil and the wear and tear of the bloc”. However, there were two optimistic headlines: “MERCOSUR, 25 years of success” (La Razón https://goo.gl/3oomlE) in Bolivia, which is currently in the process of joining, and Telesur (https://goo.gl/fNrXXI): “MERCOSUR celebrates 25 years betting on economic integration” highlighting the progress in social and cultural issues.

However, the current situation shows that there is a crisis and an opportunity for the process of integration. There are two possible ways, self-criticism and call to action, or resignation. The international system up to 2016 demonstrated the importance of every State to belong to broad integration processes and to large trade blocs, since it increases the possibilities of commercial transactions, with enormous political and economic opportunities. But last year was a turning point in the history of integration. The Brexit and the election of Donald Trump to the US presidency who withdrew the country from the brand new Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) shows an uncertainty in the economic, geopolitical and also social area, especially after a time when diplomacy and international negotiations had created a conducive environment for the trade blocs, from the Trans-Pacific Partnership itself to the Pacific Alliance, in an attempt to focus the world economy on Asia-Pacific, which is interpreted as the engine of the international economy in the next years.

According to many analysts, nowadays MERCOSUR is the moment of the ‘Black Swan’. This theory develops the possibility that unexpected situations lead to a rebirth of the bloc after a long hibernation in an unpredictable and uncertain international political and economic context. Among other things, this new impulse is brought about the emergence in Latin America of a new integration process, the Pacific Alliance, which calls itself as an innovative process which follows the patterns of the new international system focus on the new center of geopolitics and world economy. In contrast to MERCOSUR that was born in 1991 inspired by neoliberal ideas, after the change of political climate there were only advances in the social, cultural and, in some cases, political areas.

MERCOSUR needs to adapt to the new regional and international situation. Since it was born in the 1990s in a neoliberal context, it developed in the 2000s in a political climate framed in the ‘turn to the left‘ and is now in a different regional climate with the so-called ‘turn to the right‘ (1), into an international environment where it seems that the status quo is going to have an unpredictably change. This is precisely one of the weaknesses of the MERCOSUR project; it depends almost exclusively on ideological complementarity, extreme inter-presidentialism and pro-tempore presidencies pendulums. However, it should not be forgotten that this harmony between governments and presidential diplomacy is the success factor of the bloc (2), a bloc that does not fit the models of classical integration, because there is neither a significant institution nor a supranational level. We could say that MERCOSUR follows its own model (3) which is precisely the cause of its progress but also of its obstacles. There is no single model for the integration and cooperation processes, because each one is adjusted to its member’s reality (4). MERCOSUR was born with the deficiency that it followed the priorities and objectives of the governments of turn, reason why before each political change, MERCOSUR is stalled.

If we see the present, it is possible understand that after the first phase of economic complementation the bloc did not have more advances in that field, but it did cross with strength the 2008 crisis that was originated in the developed countries, the congruence of the politics of the ‘Turn to the Left’ made it advance in the social and cultural level, and the leadership of Brazil, on the one hand at regional level, on the second hand as an emergent power (5), gave some dynamics to the process but that could not cross political climate changes.

Nowadays, MERCOSUR is immersed in a crisis, but it is not the only integration process that is on crisis, even the European Union (EU) which is considered the deepest process of integration and the example to follow, is in its greatest crisis (6), or the Trans-Pacific Agreement which few months after seeing the light, goes through its first moment of darkness. However, MERCOSUR is marked by a change of political conjuncture of the ‘turn to the right‘, the strongest partner, Brazil is in a social, political and economic crisis, Argentina is politically divided but in a stable situation, Uruguay is in a cautious mode, Paraguay is expectant of the Bolivian incorporation to be able to increase the commercial flows and thus to leave the mutual geostrategic prison, and the most problematic partner, Venezuela, that after Chávez’s death, the country entered a political-social crisis that divides the country and makes the member be suspended from the bloc, but having the pro tempore presidency, a big deprivation.

That is why MERCOSUR is dead, because the bloc is experiencing a credibility and survival crisis. It was unable to adapt to the new era, to the new international and regional reality, and neither was there political efforts to have an economic deepening. It is necessary that the projects transcend political administrations and be guided by the wishes of the people, which at first are forgotten. Furthermore is needed a common external agenda, because that was built for the majority partners (Brazil and Argentina) for the benefit of their own interests, which sometimes are not complementary and even hurt the smaller partners. A common agenda would give the bloc the tool to go on new international negotiations, deepen current alliances and having a voice in international forums. With Brazil immersed in its internal sphere, it would seem the moment for Argentina to be the leader of the process, but for that to happen it must prioritize the interest of the bloc to the national interest, and generate instances that allow a better complementation after the changes of the administrations.

Between the 20 and the 24 of March, the XXVII Round of the Committee of Bi-regional Negotiations between MERCOSUR and the European Union will be held in Argentina to promote stalled trade negotiations. But the bloc also has several open fronts, negotiations with the European Free Trade Association (EFTA), and the rapprochement with Korea, China and Japan. In a Multiplex World, all actors have the potential to increase their international insertion, if they maintain a clear strategy (8). It is time to see if MERCOSUR can achieve this strategy.

 

(1) Carné, Jonatán. “¿América Latina da un Giro a la Derecha?”, SABF Blog, 2016, http://blog.sabf.org.ar/2016/04/06/america-latina-da-un-giro-a-la-derecha/

(2) Malamud, Andrés. “La diplomacia presidencial y los pilares institucionales del MERCOSUR: un examen empírico”, Revista electrónica “Relaciones Internacionales”, 2010.

(3) Bizzozero, Lincoln. “Los primeros 20 años del Mercosur: del Programa de Liberalización Comercial al Plan Estratégico de Acción Social”, Revista Densidades, 2011.

(4) Peña, Felix. “Los 25 años del Mercosur y opciones en el camino de su evolución futura”, Newsletter, 2016.

(5) Carné, Jonatán. “¿Qué pasó con las potencias emergentes? El Caso de los BRICS.”, SABF Blog, 2016, http://blog.sabf.org.ar/2016/07/06/que-paso-con-las-potencias-emergentes-el-caso-de-los-brics/

(6) Domínguez, Emiliano. “La encrucijada europea: ampliación y Brexit”, SABF Blog, 2017, http://blog.sabf.org.ar/2017/01/30/la-encrucijada-europea-ampliacion-y-brexit/

(7) Acharya, Amitav. “From the Unipolar moment to a Multiplex World”, YaleGlobal Univertisty, 2014.

Our Digital Golden Age

By 2030, it is predicted that 2 billion jobs will disappear, approximately 50% of the jobs on the planet. What does that mean for our lives in just 13 years? Will we be ravaged by unemployment and social inequality? Or will we have entered a golden age of development?

The classical period of Greece (4-5th century BCE) was a cultural explosion that saw extensive development in philosophy, science, architecture, art, theatre, literature and the creation of the political system known as democracy. It was a period of intense creative production that arguably shaped the development of the western world as we know it today.

The catalyst that drove the birth of this period was a transition from subsistence agriculture and every man for himself, to the development of coinage, collective abundance and the merchant class. Here we see diversification of social, economic and political models. Above all, we see the development of the concept of leisure time. Naturally, how can a man who needs to work a farm develop time to ponder the ways of the world? He needs someone to work the farm instead. Enter slavery. With the hard work of the day covered, the man has more time to manage his farm and consider other things. The concept of work and leisure arrives and we have the beginnings of a new system of hierarchy: those who have free time and those who do not.

In the absence of a second wave of slavery, what could disrupt our economic and social system in such a significant way, what could free up our labour force to such an extent? Look around and you can start to guess: the development of AI and chatbots, driverless cars, IoT, wearable technology. In our modern world, humans are not required to do the work, we automate. Enter the robots.

It is estimated that by 2030, we will lose 2 billion jobs across the globe. Most of these jobs will be in unskilled labour. More and more jobs will require less human input because a robot can do the work better. Will this be a tragedy for unskilled workers? Or will our new found abundance of leisure time re-organise our world to engage more with abstract and creative thought? Will we move from working because we have to earn money to engage with our current economic model, or will we move to people working because they want to, because they feel passionate about something, because they have a talent?

Gallup has been measuring employee engagement in the USA since 2000 i it notes consistent numbers when it comes to employees who are active, enthusiastic and committed to their work. That number is 32%, with a global average of just 13%. The rest of employees, the other 68-87%, are significantly less productive but still paid alongside their highly engaged and productive colleagues.

Unhappy employees are not only disruptive to workplace flow, they can also put pressure on our health care systems. Ground breaking research in 2012 from the Carnegie Mellon University, was able for the first time to provide evidence that continuous psychological stress significantly contributes to higher rates of illness as the body’s inflammatory response is reduced. What would it look like for our health care systems if we were able to reduce the number of people being treated for stressed related illness?

In preparation for a digitally driven world, Finland has commenced a trial of the universal income where 2,000 selected unemployed citizens are receiving a living wage. They will continue to be paid this wage even if they find employment. At the World Government Summit in Dubai, Elon Musk warned that governments will need to start looking seriously at universal income as more jobs become automated. However, he expressed concern that the greatest challenge would be for people to find meaning in a world where so much of our purpose is derived from our employment.

So, here we are, at a pivotal point of time. Thirteen years away from 2 billion fewer jobs. We are on the cusp of something new, a time that will require changes to our economic, social and political systems. Will we respond fast enough? Will we embrace leisure time and shift our economic and political systems to suit? Will we adjust what we have or are we on the verge of creating something new? If our technology is already developing at an exponential rate, what new innovations will we uncover when we have more time to create?

Perhaps we are on the verge of our next creative cultural explosion. Enter 2030, the dawn of our next golden age.

Entrepreneurs making some noise – Endeavor Experience 2015

“Ultimately, we are like a virus to create opportunities”, answered Guibert Englebienne in his conversation over a fake whisky, reflecting about high impact entrepreneurship. It was the first talk of the afternoon session in the Experiencia Endeavor 2015, which was held last June 2nd in the Usina del Arte, Buenos Aires, and the question “What makes an entrepreneur?” was again answered (or, at least, asked) by some of the speakers.

Continue reading…

10 outstanding conferences for students in 2015

lecture2015 has begun. A new year, full of opportunities for young students all over the world. Here, a list of the most relevant and suggested conferences that are still receiving applications. Don’t miss them!

 

 

Continue reading…

The economy of your life (and of your world)

Last October 7th, the second session of SABF’s serie of talks was held. On this opportunity we’ve invited Tomás Bulat, economist and author of “Economía Descubierta” [Uncovered Economy] and “La Economía de tu Vida” [The Economy of Your Life]. On his talk, Tomás spoke mainly about two topics: how can economy affect our lives, and how will the world develop over the next 40 years and what would this development imply

La Economía de tu Vida [The Economy of Your Life]

Life is made up of decisions. Some are big decisions, like where to study, or who to marry with. However, most of them are small, like deciding tobulat1_opt borrow money, or to go to the movies. Many of these decisions are economic decisions. But, many people often say “I know nothing about economics”. Not knowing how an engine works doesn’t prevent people from driving. The same happens with the economy; not knowing how it works doesn’t prevent us from doing economics, since taking economic decisions implies practicing economics.

Tomás argues that in order to make better economic decisions we must understand better the economy. Inflation, exchange control, convertibility; these are examples of economic terms we have heard many times. However, do we really know what they mean? Or, more importantly, do we understand what they involve? Understanding the economy, according to Tomás, enables people to keep their savings safe, to defend what is theirs. In his books, he gives the readers tools and advice… but no solutions because, even though we all go through the same, we are all different, and the best decision to be taken depends on the situation in which each person is in. 

Continue reading…

Who do we support?

Two days before the beginning of the World Cup, The New York Times released a simple survey with three questions concerning the opinion of people from 19 of the 32 countries that are participating in the championship. Among these questions, they asked which team people rooted against; and the answers were interesting: they had nothing to do with football, but with each country’s history, and current or past conflicts. Argentina, for example answered England in the first place. Mexico and Russia answered U.S.A., and Japan and South Korea voted against each other. Brazil, the country where I am from, never had a significant conflict that resulted in us hating some other country… so we sticked to the derby and answered Argentina.

The most interesting part is that there was also a second place to be chosen for that question. Brazil was selected by both Argentinians and Brazilians themselves. This sole figure is a summary of what has been happening since the year 2006 until today or, going further, since we are a free nation.

Continue reading…

The global conscious generation

Attending an international conference in Germany was definitely a unique experience. Although I thought I was not going to be surprised, since I had already attended SABF in 2013, I discovered very different things. Both, the World Business Dialogue and the SABF, are very special and incomparable experiences.

I participated in the SABF 2013 edition and have just participated in the WBD 2014 edition. To begin with, I am a student from Buenos Aires, so it was a great experience to live in the hostel with other participants, something that I could not live during the SABF. I shared the room with girls from Vietnam, Dominican Republic and Bosnia, certainly my experience started with a lot of diversity. Meeting participants from all over the world helped me a lot to get to know other cultures and considering other points of view.

wbd1The theme of the conference was Disruptive Innovations and various talks and workshops took place regarding this around all different types of industries. I was surprised to see the technological breakthroughs that are taking place all over the world, especially in the field of education and medicine. I learned about the progress of these new technologies in the more developed countries. I think this was a great experience, since I had access to technological advances that I may have missed if I hadn’t attended this conference.

However, I realised that, while in the “first world” countries millions of dollars are invested in the highest technologies that will drastically change society, most of these countries ignore the basic difficulties that developing countries suffer. Thus, while Europe and the U.S. are concerned about extending human life to immortality, in many other countries, children die of hunger every day. I was a bit upset when I realized that our social and economic problems occupy almost no place on the agenda of the most powerful technology developers.

wbd2

 

Fortunately, I realised that we, the youth, are part of another generation, a global conscious generation. The strong participation of students from developing countries and the interest of students in developed countries about our problems certainly gave me a lot of hope. Also, I had the opportunity to meet many leaders who are, themselves, using the highest technologies to change the realities of the people who have less to share.

The most advanced technologies are dramatically transforming our society and revolutionising all industries. These are very powerful tools that should be treated with care, as they can bring unimaginable side effects. It is up to us, the youth, to make the most of these tools for a better development of our society, not just thinking about the evolution of just an elite group but of all the people.

Conferences like SABF and WBD that bring together the leaders of today and the leaders of tomorrow, play a fundamental role in encouraging the younger generation to take action to improve reality. These are experiences that raise and transform the way we see things and energise us to take an active role in society. I think these are experiences that all young people should live, regardless of religion or ethnicity or the professional career. The more of us that take part in these forums, the better the future that awaits us all. For example, application period for the South American Business Forum closes on May 4th… there is still time!

Entrepreneurs, Startups and the Future of Technology

James Donelan, MuleSoft

MuleSoft – Connecting the new enterprise – #1 Integration platform for the cloud and enterprise

“The key to being successful as an entrepreneur is to devote time to your ideas and create. The rest is putting effort to succeed.”

After his studies in the University of Limerick (Ireland) James took his first steps as a Software Engineer in Compaq (Germany). From where he moved to San Francisco.  In his early stages during the dot-com boom he developed online securities trading systems at Charles Schwab.  Later on he kept on working at several different companies gaining more than 15 years of experience in the field of technology, internet and software development.

Continue reading…

13 Lessons learnt from World Business Dialogue ’13

  1. Family in Business. The most successful companies, and the most prone to survive crises are family owned. Treating the company as a part of your identity sparkles innovation and creativity; marvelous example is the Ferrero company (http://bit.ly/Zpq2wX) where the founder Michele Ferrero designs almost all products. Moreover, when a company is hit by exogenous factors and economic hardships, the family as a whole acts as a catalyst in the survival of the firm due to the personal connection the members have established with its existence.

    Continue reading…