Free Trade, Development Discussed at Montevideo Circle

February 2, 2007

Leaders from Spain, South America and Costa Rica concluded a meeting of the

Montevideo Circle

Saturday in San José by recapping the topics of education, development and free trade discussed during their two-day encounter.

Presidents Oscar Arias of Costa Rica and Alvaro Uribe of Colombia, as well as ex-Presidents of Uruguay, Julio María Sanguinetti, Brazil, Enrique Cardoso, and Chile, Ricardo Lagos, were among the political figures in attendance at the conference, which bore the hefty theme of “Promoting Education to Improve Access to Knowledge and Make Latin America More Competitive in the Global Market.”

Sanguinetti – who founded the

Montevideo Circle

in 1996 to unite politicians, intellectuals and international leaders from Latin America to talk about the challenges facing the region, according to wire service ACAN-EFE – said Latin America “tragically embraces failure” and needs to accept the fact that the world has changed.

“We talk about globalization as if it were an idea, when it’s a fact,” he told a packed house at the Hotel Cariari, west of San José. Lagos echoed the same themes.

“Globalization, my friends, is here to stay,” he said, explaining that the region must focus on advanced technologies and personalized service to get ahead in the new era.More direct, specialized relationships between producers and buyers are the way of the future, he said.

Uribe said these changing circumstances have made old definitions of “right” and “left” outdated, and defended his efforts to improve security in his country so that forces “equally protect business leaders and union leaders.”

Arias used the meeting as an opportunity to speak out in favor of his “Costa Rica Consensus” proposal, which would change the way developed countries calculate their aid packages for developing countries by rewarding those that reduce their military spending in favor of social spending.

 

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