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Wednesday 25 November 2009

Patricia Covarrubia

XIX Ibero-American Summit: ‘Innovation and Knowledge’

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The Ibero-American Heads of State and Governments are meeting for two days (30 November and 01 December) in Estoril, Portugal. The twenty two members are looking to promote, as the theme suggest, innovation and knowledge (see press release here)

Ibero-American Secretary General Enrique Iglesias, said that this forthcoming meeting looks better than previous years (in an informal note, perhaps he was referring to the XVII forum when the King of Spain demanded to the Venezuelan President to 'shut up'). Going back to the point, according to him, there is a healthier economic environment. He also adds that Latin America as well as any country in general, have learned to better manage economic affairs and are innovating in business structure and social policies.

Iglesias said that ‘innovation’ is very low in both Latin America and Spain and Portugal, but yet, they are ‘things that contribute’ (did not say what and how – I wonder if there is a hidden agenda). Anyway, he continues to explain that they are not starting from scratch and thus mentioned the Brazilian oil industry, biotechnology, the Ibero-American Science and Technology Education Consortium (ISTEC)and the Economic Commission for Latin American and the Caribbean (ECLAC).

Finally, Iglesias hopes that during the Spanish presidency of the Council of the EU (Jan-Jun 2010) the EU will sign association agreements with Central America, the Andean Community and Mercosur.

Point of concern
At the moment, innovation is the key to raise competitiveness for Latin America. However, it is understood that these countries have a very low level of innovation but are rich in biodiversity, so that what to do and what is the cost? Recently, I have been observing the negotiation agreements between the EU and countries such as Chile, Peru, Colombia and Ecuador and there is always a crucial point where talks appear to be on hold, that is, intellectual property (apart of course from the sensitive issue of the banana market).

Looking at the intellectual property clauses and table of negotiations, I sense that Latin American countries not only would like to protect but use their biodiversity themselves. Nonetheless, note that countries cannot give and get nothing in return - negotiations are focus in reciprocity. That said, Latin America countries are getting better quotas for products, which are not bad, but my concern is that they are not getting what is needed in this area.

I would finally say that negotiations in this issue should be considered if others make significant attractive offers in the innovation sector rather than a mere economical advantage.

Patricia Covarrubia

Patricia Covarrubia