Education Reform in China, Latin America Focus of Hangzhou Forum

Education Reform in China, Latin America Focus of Hangzhou Forum

HANGZHOU, China — The Institute of the Americas, in cooperation with the Institute of Latin American Studies at Zhejiang International Studies University and Beijing Normal University, held a conference titled “Education Reform and Innovation in Latin America and China” on Oct. 18, 2014, in Hangzhou, China.

Institute of the Americas Vice President Lynne Walker delivered opening remarks and moderated the first panel titled “The History and Current State of Latin America’s Education Development.” During her presentation, Walker noted that Mexico is now producing graduates in engineering and technology at rates equivalent to its international business competitors, including its No. 1 trade partner, the United States.

The Mexican government reports that 130,000 engineers and technicians graduate each year from its universities and specialty high schools, more than Canada, Germany or Brazil. University enrollment in Mexico has tripled in 30 years, to almost 3 million students.

“These aspirational students want to build something for themselves and their country,” Walker said. “Mexico is laying the groundwork for a more technology-based economy.”

Patricio Palacios, Counsellor at the Embassy of Ecuador in China, spoke about the centerpiece of education reform in Ecuador – the Yachay Project. This project contemplates a model city that combines educational opportunities that respond to the needs of technology-based businesses, while also providing comfortable, safe neighborhoods for the workers and their families.

Juan Gonzalez, director general of scientific communication at Mexico’s Universidad de Colima, informed the audience of 100 business executives, researchers and scholars, about the advances in Mexico’s educational reform while underscoring the deficiencies in the system that must be addressed. Cesar Bustos, a professor at the Universidad de Colima who studied for several years in China and speaks fluent Mandarin, shared his knowledge of international programs offered by Mexico’s higher education system with a focus on Mexico-China cooperation.

He Linli, a professor at Southwest University of Science and Technology in Mianyang, China, compared the higher education systems in Chile and China, highlighting the lessons that China can learn from Chile’s model.

Xu Shicheng, director of Institute of Latin American Studies of Zhejiang International Studies University, made closing remarks in Mandarin and Spanish, using his own experiences and knowledge of the advances being made in educational reform in China and Latin America as an example of the important efforts being made in the two regions.

Corporate Social Responsibility and Investment Opportunities Discussed at Beijing Forum

Corporate Social Responsibility and Investment Opportunities Discussed at Beijing Forum

BEIJING – The Institute of the Americas and Institute of Latin American Studies of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences held the fifth annual Beijing conference on China and Latin America, titled “Investing in Latin America: Opportunities and Lessons Learned.”

The Oct. 16, 2014, conference, sponsored by The Development Bank of Latin America (CAF), Vera & Asociados and Mexico’s Grupo Bimbo, drew an audience of more than 200 participants, including Latin American ambassadors to China, former Chinese ambassadors to Latin America, business executives, government officials from China, Latin America and the U.S., and researchers and journalists from around the world.

The conference focused on investment opportunities in Latin America’s major economic sectors, including infrastructure, energy and manufacturing, as well as a discussion of corporate social responsibility and business practices in Latin America.

The Beijing conference, sponsored by The Development Bank of Latin America (CAF), Vera & Asociados and Mexico’s Grupo Bimbo, drew an audience of more than 200 participants. Photo courtesy of ILAS/CASS

Shen Zhiliang, Director General of Latin American and Caribbean Affairs in the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs, addressed the diversification of energy cooperation between China and Latin America, from traditional energy sources to renewable sources such as wind and solar. Ambassador of Chile to China Jorge Heine noted that Chile is an excellent market for renewable energy investment, thanks to its sunny deserts and windy shores.

Hamilton Moss, CAF Vice President of Energy, stressed the institutional cooperation between China and Latin America to achieve energy security and reasonably low energy prices.  And former Vice President of China Development Bank (CDB) Liu

Kegu expressed optimism for bringing together Chinese capital and Latin American energy resources.

Alberto Limas, ‎Deputy Secretary at the Embassy of Mexico in China, stated that the Mexico-China relationship is in its best moment in history, and said the two countries are working on the strategic framework established by President Xi and President Peña Nieto.

Attorney Cristina Hernandez, of the Mexico City-based law firm Vera & Asociados, spoke about Mexico’s energy reform and its far-reaching social impact. Photo courtesy of ILAS/CASS

Attorney Cristina Hernandez, from the Mexico City-based law firm Vera & Asociados, spoke about Mexico’s energy reform and the far-reaching social impact of the reform.
During an afternoon panel that focused on corporate social responsibility, Ambassador of Peru to China Juan Carlos Capuñay said social responsibility should be shared by governments and by corporations in order to help develop local communities.

Former Ambassador of Costa Rica to China Marco Ruiz said organizations and agencies that promote outbound investment should prepare investors before they go abroad because their behaviors impact the country’s national image in the countries in which they are investing.

Professor Wu Guoping, dean of the Institute of Latin American and Caribbean Studies at Southwest University of Science and Technology in Mianyang, China, urged Chinese companies to differentiate between each Latin American country and respect each country’s unique business culture.
Representatives of several Chinese companies with investments in Latin America, including the China National Petroleum Corporation (CNPC) and Sinohydro, spoke about their practices concerning corporate social responsibility.

Huang Jin from Sinohydro suggested that Chinese companies in Latin America improve their relations with the local media as a means of communicating with the local community. CNPC requires all of its overseas project companies to establish a public relations department and hire professional staff.
Sun Hongbo, a research scholar at the Institute of Latin American Studies of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, stressed the importance of Chinese companies strengthening their public relations and communications strategy in Latin America.

Energy and Education in the Western Hemisphere

Energy and Education in the Western Hemisphere

WASHINGTON, DC – Energy and education in the Western Hemisphere were linked at Institute of the Americas programs in Washington, DC on September 30 and October 1.

During a cocktail reception at the Mexican Cultural Institute on September 30, Roberta Jacobson, Assistant Secretary for Western Hemisphere Affairs at the State Department, highlighted the intersection between energy and education as she praised the Obama Administration’s 100,000 Strong in the Americas initiative aimed at increasing educational exchanges in our hemisphere as well as the advances in energy cooperation spurred in part by the US energy revolution.

Mexican Ambassador to the United States, Eduardo Medina Mora, spoke of Mexico’s interest in the 100,000 Strong initiative and celebrated the corresponding cross-border leadership as well as opportunities for Mexico and the United States in a 21st century economy, particularly as Mexico continues to implement major economic reforms including what he called the mother of all reforms – energy.

The reception coincided with a program on the Geopolitics of Natural Gas in the Western Hemisphere, on October 1 co-hosted by the Institute of the Americas and the University of Texas at Austin. The session opened with a keynote address by Christopher Smith, Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of Fossil Fuels at the US Department of Energy, followed by a panel that featured Trinidad & Tobago’s ambassador to the US Neil Parsan, State Department Energy Bureau Director for Policy Analysis and Public Diplomacy Richard Westerdale, as well as Cheniere Energy’s Albert Nahas and independent analyst David Goldwyn.

PDAS Smith reviewed the US energy revolution and cited two National Petroleum Council studies to highlight how quickly the outlook has changed on the back of the United States’ resurgence as a major oil and gas producer. Smith also noted the importance of natural gas for energy security and lower emissions. Smith emphasized President Obama’s unambiguous stance on the importance of natural gas in the United States, remarking that it had been raised  in the last three State of the Union addresses. Smith also argued that environmental issues remain critical. And while he called them manageable, he underscored the difference between manageable and managed. When it came to the question of lifting the oil export ban, he was less definitive and did not make any predictions.

The panel discussion focused on how to utilize the US’ energy boom to further diplomacy but, more importantly, economic development in the Western Hemisphere. Amb. Parsan assessed the energy dilemma in the Caribbean and argued that the current energy model is unsustainable. To wit, 35% of Caribbean debt is attributed to Petrocaribe. Trinidad and Tobago is committed to supporting the energy needs of its neighbors, he noted, including through development of smaller scale liquefied natural gas (LNG) technology, such as the Gasfin project in Trinidad & Tobago.

Richard Westerdale discussed the recent diplomatic efforts the Energy Bureau is undertaking, from the Connecting the Americas 2020 initiative launched at the Summit of the Americas in Cartagena in 2012 to the more recent Caribbean Energy Security Initiative, and the hallmark agreement signed in September with the island nation of Grenada to create a pilot program intended to bring a “cleaner energy future.”

Albert Nahas and David Goldwyn asserted that given the US natural gas boom and progress on exports, the US government could and should do more, particularly when one considers the economic impact of electric prices in Latin America that are still at least 25 percent higher than the United States. Goldywn further observed that his calculations based upon an IDB study pointed to a ballpark figure of $2-3 billion for the Caribbean to convert from fuel oil and diesel generation to cleaner burning gas-fired power systems. Nahas argued for progress and action to develop US-government backed export financing structures to enable LNG exports to markets that have credit ratings below investment grade, particularly those in Central America and the Caribbean.