President and Chief Executive Officer,
International Economic Forum of the Americas
At the start of the new year, it’s already clear that 2020 will be a defining year for all of humanity, a turning point in the current global transition. Our first task – and, indeed, our first major challenge – in dealing with this historic transition will be to understand the fundamental changes that we are confronting. The main objective of the International Economic Forum of the Americas (IEFA) is to promote open discussion on those changes between all countries, and to distance ourselves from vested interests and dogmatic influences.
It’s only natural that a transition of this scope and magnitude should give rise to feelings of uncertainty and insecurity, which are causing a problematic and, in some cases, dangerous socio-political and economic fallout in certain parts of the world. This danger gives the issue even greater urgency. We must watch closely at these situations unfold as they could set off serious international conflicts or draw us into another recession that could be even more severe than the 2008 downturn.
Our world is becoming increasingly multipolar, with a disturbing resurgence of protectionism, populism and xenophobia. Meanwhile, Australia and the Amazon are burning, their destruction serving as a grim reminder that 2019 was the hottest year on record. These conflagrations are endangering millions of human lives, either directly or because of their immediate effects on health and the environment. They are also contributing to the development of diseases, including epidemics such as the coronavirus which has become a global health emergency.
However, the counterpoint to all of this is that, all over the world, a nascent social conscience is gradually taking shape, which may well form the basis of a new humanism. Due to the influence of the communications revolution and social media, citizens are taking to the streets in every region of the world, forcing their governments to take their demands into account.
So far, these movements have not significantly improved any region’s socio-political and economic situation but these popular protests are still in their infancy. The more informed people are around the world, the more inclined they are to communicate with each other, regardless of the distances between them. Thus, in spite of the much-vaunted “fake news,” they come to understand the living conditions of people in other regions and other cultures.
Thanks to improved communication, the world is gradually becoming a “global village”, as Canadian philosopher Marshall McLuhan predicted it would in the 60s. This greater connectedness is the first prerequisite for promoting both a fairer and more inclusive global economy, and the kind of international cooperation so urgently needed to combat climate change, which is having such a severe impact on people everywhere.
As the residents living in the various neighbourhoods of this global village express their views, grassroots movements spring up, overlapping and colliding with one another – clear evidence of the global transition that compels us all to work together, and clearly pointing to the increasingly pressing need to rethink our multilateral international organizations so they can properly support the new humanism that is developing. These organizations are the cornerstones of our existence and development at every level. However, some of them were created over 75 years ago, following the Bretton Woods Conference and in the aftermath of World War II, hence the importance of rethinking their mission, their methods and their membership.
In light of this, the International Institute of Economic Diplomacy’s advisory committee, of which the IEFA is a founding member, will announce the framework for its study on multilateralism at the upcoming 10th edition of the World Strategic Forum, to be held in Miami on September 1 and 2. We have no choice. The time to start discussions on undertaking this fundamental and sweeping reform is now.
Brexit is finally over, and the US-China trade war seems to be gradually coming to a positive conclusion, faced on the one hand with the threat of a serious economic slowdown in China amplified by the consequences of the coronavirus and, on the other hand, with the pressures of the upcoming US presidential election in November, not to mention the threat of presidential impeachment. Furthermore, Americans and Europeans are expected to sign an important first trade deal this year, around the same time that the new NAFTA agreement (between the US, Mexico and Canada) and the EU-Canada agreement are expected to come into effect. These agreements come at a time when the national debt of some major countries exceeds 100% of their GDP, and when household and corporate debt are rising to alarming levels, given the new global economic downturn.
For all of the aforementioned reasons, it’s high time that we take action. It is imperative that 2020 be the year when we embark on far-ranging discussions that must be both visionary and pragmatic and that must involve the public and private sectors as well as civil society. In doing so, we need to make sure that we thoroughly understand the great challenges we are facing, brought about by the four recent major revolutions: the digital revolution, the energy revolution and the communications revolution. These three combined are fuelling a fourth industrial revolution that is significantly affecting every industry and is, in many ways, shaking the very foundations of globalization.
A formidable challenge indeed but, given our urgent obligation to respond to climate change, one that may well be the basis for the next phase of human life on this planet.
This is the backdrop against which the IEFA planned the programs for its four major economic forums in 2020:
- The World Strategic Forum in Miami
September 1 and 2, 2020
CONNECTING FOR GLOBAL PROSPERITY
October 26 to 28, 2020
FORGING A RESILIENT ECONOMY
November 9 and 10, 2020
TOWARDS AN INCLUSIVE GLOBALIZATION
- The Conference of Montreal
December 14 to 17, 2020
A NEW GLOBAL ECONOMY: BRIDGING A DISCONNECTED WORLD
I would like to thank our partners who, for 26 years, have enabled us to make the International Economic Forum of the Americas one of the most influential independent economic forums in the world, with a total of roughly 10,000 participants at its four annual events. I take this opportunity to remind you that the IEFA’s primary objective is to foster dialogue in order to establish a new, fairer and more inclusive globalization, and to develop the new humanism that we so urgently need.
I look forward to seeing you at one of our events!