Brexit and Trump Could Create New Opportunities for Latin America

Leaders at the World Economic Forum on Latin America agreed that “new global realities”, including votes in the United States and the United Kingdom, offered opportunities for the region to develop closer trade and political relations, both internally and with the rest of the world.

“When tectonic plates move you have two possibilities: you are either squeezed between them, or your opportunities open up,” said Susana Malcorra, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Argentina. “We need to be fast on our feet to ensure we are not squeezed, and seize the opportunities.”

The minister said that while Brazil has faced political challenges, she expected it to “open up” to the southern Mercosur trade bloc, and that together the regional grouping will be in discussions with the Pacific Alliance, whose members include Peru, Chile, Colombia and Mexico.

Ricardo Luna Mendoza, Minister of Foreign Relations of Peru, said that following recent talks between Peruvian President Pedro Pablo Kuczynski and US President Donald Trump in Washington, he felt the US was “not backing away from engagement with the region”.

But he added that Latin America should be careful “over the next two years as the United Kingdom negotiates its exit from the European Union”.

Panellists in the session also discussed how to address the wide dissatisfaction that led to last year’s political upheavals in the US and Europe.

“We need to address the concerns of those people who feel they have been left behind by globalization,” Hans-Paul Bürkner, Chairman, Boston Consulting Group, explained.

According to Malcorra, the best way to do this is to “allow people to retool themselves” and equip them with the technological skills in demand in the global economy.

James Z. Li, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, E. J. McKay & Co, added that workers employed in traditional industries, such as car manufacturing, “needed to fear” for their future.

“Free trade does create value, but for those who have been making cars, for example, do you think they can suddenly become IT professionals? That’s what is behind the US elections – people need jobs,” Li said.