Trade Unions at 36th session of ECLAC

The Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC) is one of five regional commissions of the United Nations. It aims to contribute to the economic and social development of Latin America. Etiel Moraga Contreras (CUT Chile) and Marita Gonzalez (CGT Argentina), on behalf of the CSA-TUCA were present at its 36th session in Mexico City, from the 24th to the 27th of May 2016. The meeting established the Forum of the Countries of Latin America and the Caribbean on Sustainable Development as a regional mechanism to follow-up and review the implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

The main outcome to be noted is the significance of the Horizons 2030 document, which sets out a different development paradigm to the production and export growth model fostered by many of the countries in the region.

In this respect, a new alignment of governmental actors was observed, headed by Mexico – which, moreover, holds the presidency of five international forums (technological innovation, population and development, climate change, ECLAC), bringing together Panama, Brazil, Chile, Argentina, and Costa Rica, and, on the other had, countries of the Caribbean and Central America, Ecuador, Cuba, Bolivia and Uruguay, whose vision of the development model is more in tune with the Horizons 2030 document, which builds on the ECLACian or developmentalist (Prebisch) reasoning of this body and its current direction.

The Horizons 2030 document presents a very different analysis to that offered by the North Atlantic countries of the 2008 crisis and the current domino-effect crises affecting the region. In its analysis, it points to the structural weaknesses of the capitalist economy as being the recessionary bias, the fall in demand, the fall in propensity of individuals and corporations to consume, which prevents continued growth in our region at the expense of greater exports (trade withdrawal). It also focuses on the inequality in our region as well as irreversible climate change, which not only affects the Caribbean but all coastal countries (the example of Montevideo was emphasised).

The implicit disagreement of the countries present over the right balance between the role of the state, the market and society was reflected in the reference to singular development paths in the conclusions. To quote: “Everyone’s version of events varies according to how they affect them”.

ECLAC’s line on the role of the State was presented by the Italian economist Mariana Mazzucato (professor in the Economics of Innovation at the Science Policy Research Unit (SPRU) of the University of Sussex, United Kingdom), who highlighted, using historical data, two key elements challenging the neoliberal model:

  1. Scientific and technological developments arise out of state investment. For example: the Apple iPad, where the role of companies is to give it the design element rather than the technological one.
  2. The myth of small companies or multinationals: illustrating that those best equipped to generate employment and innovation are medium-sized companies, but they are dependent on State intervention in the medium term and in a sustainable manner.

ECLAC was very critical of the one-dimensional classification of countries based on GDP and, above all, the “graduation” of countries, such as Mexico, Chile, Antigua and Barbados. The term middle-income countries was strongly criticised.

Regional integration: Whilst the document develops ECLAC’s position on improving intraregional trade within Latin America and the Caribbean, the same view was not shared by representatives from the Southern Cone, particularly the delegate from Brazil and the Argentinian foreign minister, who argued that integration contributed to improving the export offer to third markets.

Public-private partnerships: are generally viewed as desirable from the countries’ different perspectives, although they require changes in state regulation.

Relations with the European Union: The European Union negotiator (Federica Mogherini) boasted of the agreements reached with Mercosur (offers have already been drawn up and constraints have been lifted).

Most significant outcomes:

  • Adoption of the Horizons 2030 position paper
  • Establishment of the Regional Forum on Sustainable Development, with an annual agenda and budget, which provides for the participation of civil society, although advocacy is required to ensure its implementation.