In recent days, Latin America’s most important heads of government have demonstrated how little interest they have in global issues or in exchanges with the world. As a result, companies are responding to the political isolation with their own initiatives.
by Alexander Busch, Latin America correspondent for Handelsblatt and Neue Zürcher Zeitung
The last ten days have seen the G20 summit in Rome, followed by the COP26 environmental summit in Glasgow. These were the first top-level meetings of their kind after almost two years of pandemic – so a unique opportunity for each head of state to network, to promote understanding, to explain, to take positions.
But what are the three most important heads of state from Latin America doing?
Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador did not even make the trip.
Argentina’s head of government, Alberto Fernández, set off for Europe with a 100-strong delegation. But instead of making his mark as the visionary statesman from Latin America on environmental issues, Fernández tried to convince every head of government that Argentina’s debt problems were unjust and that the country deserved special treatment from the International Monetary Fund. Fernández was only interested in the environment and climate change if they could be used to reduce debt.
Brazil’s Jair Bolsonaro was in Rome but largely stayed away from the official events. He wasn’t interested in the summit. But the other heads of government obviously didn’t want to be seen with him either. Bolsonaro didn’t even fly to Glasgow.
It is clear that foreign policy is always also domestic policy, in other words it takes place with the voters in mind. But when Latin America’s most important heads of state demonstrate that they are quite indifferent to the global agenda and don’t even try to present themselves as states to be taken seriously, they are harming their countries with this isolation.
Businesses are responding to the increasing nationalistic introversion of their governments with their own initiative: both domestic and foreign companies in Latin America are beginning to look after foreign markets themselves and to develop strategies beyond their national borders. This is due to the weak growth in the region, but also because many business models, especially in the digital sector, only work above a certain size. Examples can be found in all industries.
In addition, companies are aligning their value chains with ESG criteria in order to be sustainable in environmental, social and governance terms – even if national regulators do not require these criteria at the moment. This process has intensified in all Latin American countries over the last twelve months.
COVID-19 in Latin America
Development of case numbers in the region
Currently reported cases in the countries
COVID-19 vaccine doses administered
Share of people vaccinated by country