Paolo Rocca: “We are entering a global phase where security and independence will be the order of the day”
Speaking on the occasion of the 25th anniversary of the SME Observatory Foundation (Fundación Observatorio PyME - FOP), Paolo Rocca declared that, "Latin America has the opportunity to redesign the value chain, as Vaca Muerta has all the capacity needed to develop the gas industry, bolstering the entire supply chain." Ezequiel Tavernelli, director of ProPymes Argentina, was also present at the event.
On Technical Education Day, Fundación Observatorio PyME (FOP) celebrated 25 years of work supporting small and medium-sized enterprises by holding its Biennial Conference on “Productive convergence between SMEs and Large Companies: digital transformation, technical education and energy efficiency at each territorial level.” The event was an opportunity for businessmen, educators, technicians, officials and experts to engage in constructive dialogue and foster meaningful exchange between different sectors. The main theme of the conference was how to create the right conditions for greater convergence as regards productivity, between large and small companies.
The opening speech was given by Giorgi Alliata Di Montereale, the President of FOP, who said that, “Today we are celebrating 25 uninterrupted years of work, a milestone that we were only able to achieve thanks to the commitment and dedication of our highly qualified technical team. Our ongoing task has been to produce data to encourage action and we believe it to be an extremely useful instrument for public and private sector decision-making. We have devised a meticulous analytical methodology to construct a vision of the current state of affairs which shines a spotlight on what is needed to tackle problems.” He concluded his words of welcome by thanking “the companies that collaborate with our work, leading the way in job creation,” adding that, “Technical education is directly related to the creation of companies.”
Di Montereale’s words were followed by a keynote panel moderated by the international analyst Fabián Calle. Paolo Rocca was joined by Jorge Argüello, Argentine ambassador to the United States, in a discussion entitled "The new international industrial scenario." Rocca shared that “there can be no serious international economic policy without an understanding of the structure of the world order. In this scenario of a bipolar world, which is what so many of us see, affairs are being dominated by a strategic rivalry that will be with us for decades, perhaps even longer than the Cold War, as the U.S. and China lock horns in a never-ending trade dispute. It is vital to understand this context in order to implement development strategies. Argentina will have no more room to make mistakes, we are becoming more relevant than ever before, and the assertive gaze of the United States is going to be far more intense.”
For his part, Argüello analyzed the international situation, sharing his view that, “If there is something that characterizes international news, it’s the magnitude and speed of the changes we are experiencing. We have to constantly be updating ourselves, rethinking our preconceived notions about how the world works. It’s crucial to come up with strategies that allow us to correct our course as we sail increasingly choppy seas. The world is becoming more competitive and less cooperative. The United States is bent on renewing its leadership while China continues its rise, gaining greater international stature. Both powers are becoming more important in the Latin American region, something that could lead to disputes over scarce resources such as gas, lithium and oil. In this context, Argentina must diversify its exports and attract productive imports, positioning itself as a reliable and attractive node and multiplying its relationships rather than replacing them.”
Subsequently, Rocca took the floor and congratulated the FOP for all its hard work. He explained that, “In Argentina, being able to consistently pursue a single project for 25 years without losing direction is quite an amazing feat. From the Techint Group’s point of view, our focus on SMEs springs from our traditions and origins. The achievements of our ProPymes Program both here and in Mexico is highly representative of the vocation of a group that perceives its value chain to be a vital asset for competitiveness and growth.”
He went on to analyze the geopolitical state of affairs, arguing that, “We are facing a shift in the geopolitical balance of the world. In the short span of barely one hundred years, we went from Hobsbawm to Fukuyama and the end of history. We could speak of a century of globalization without conflict, in which man could have achieved a confluence of values and systems for a more integrated world. There was great hope for a substantial shift in the system. Yet gradually, all this has crumbled. The main actor behind this process is China, which has introduced 250 million people into the world economic system, achieving extraordinary growth rates. This is being balanced by the process to expand the primary sector throughout Latin America, driven by a nation eager for raw materials and keen to conquer markets for its industrial products. China associates the hegemony of growth with economic growth.”
Rocca continued, saying that, “In this bipolar world, there is no such thing as the good guys and the bad guys. But there are different ways of looking at freedom, democracy and individual rights. It becomes critical to understand the limits of the implications of cooperation, which has turned into a competition, today fueling a confrontation between two superpowers. In this context, Russia's invasion of Ukraine was the result of a progressive deterioration of the climate and the construction of a bipolar world that gained prominence during the ‘90s, something that nonetheless took us all by surprise. It’s an unprecedented breach of the rules of the game that had held sway for the last 30 years. It is striking for its violence. The invasion of an independent nation. Furthermore, we find its impact on the energy value chain, which has been completely interrupted, to be astonishing. Now, we are waiting to see what the long-term consequences will be. The same is true of the food chain. The dimensions of this conflict reveal the scale of what could happen if there were simply an involuntary accident in Taiwan or even a form of military intervention on the island, something which today is considered, if not probable, at least possible.”
Finally, Rocca turned to the opportunities arising in the region in terms of the value chain, reaffirming that, “Latin America has the opportunity to redesign the value chain. In Mexico, companies are growing and investing up to four times more than before. In terms of energy, in Vaca Muerta, we have the capacity to develop a gas industry that would significantly bolster the entire regional energy supply chain, an extraordinary opportunity to boost the work of small, medium and large companies. What we can do there is highly relevant for the value chain. Similarly, the energy transition is also an incredible opportunity for lithium or copper ventures. The United States needs to redesign the chain sustaining the energy transition. Today, China has a virtual monopoly over the vital links in this value chain, so the opportunities are many and varied. We are entering a new phase in global development, where security and independence will be the order of the day. The conflict between Russia and Ukraine tells us that we are not freed from the divisions that characterized the 20th century and underscores the fact that we are still bound by the rules of a game that should be foreign to these times. For our region, this requires reflection and some degree of soul-searching. Nobody knows where we are going to be in five or ten years. What is happening in Ukraine makes us painfully aware that it is difficult to have predictability about anything at all.”
After the keynote panel, the event continued with an exchange on the “Comparative experiences of cooperation between the educational system and the productive system.” The speakers were Ezequiel Tavernelli, the director of ProPymes Argentina, Claudio Dondi, an expert in quality, innovation and educational equity at Confindustria Reggio Emilia, and Gerardo Marchesini, the executive director of the Argentine Institute of Technological Education (Instituto Nacional de Educación Tecnológica - INET).
Tavernelli explained that: “Through the ProPymes Technical Gene program, we have since 2013 trained over 8,000 students and teachers, facilitating more than 1,400 professional practices and internships. We are working in 45 schools, in 45 locations, in five provinces. This is a unique partnership between schools, the national and provincial governments, and small and large companies, which ends up producing results because it offers opportunities. It sets an agenda and brings people with limited job possibilities closer to something far more sustainable such as an industrial career.”