Uruguay and Chile, least corrupt countries in LAC region says Transparency International

uruguay-corrupcionIn Latin America, Uruguay leads with a ranking of 21, followed by The Bahamas and Chile both in 24th place, and Venezuela figures at the bottom.

Over two-thirds of the 176 countries and territories in this year’s Corruption Perceptions Index fall below the midpoint of a scale spanning 0 (highly corrupt) to 100 (very clean), said Transparency International (TI) upon the release of the non-profit’s 2016 report. No country reached above 90.

The global average score is a paltry 43, indicating endemic corruption in a country’s public sector. And top-scoring countries are far outnumbered by countries where citizens face the tangible impact of corruption on a daily basis.

Results can be viewed on a map at the TI website.

In Latin America, Uruguay leads with a ranking of 21, followed by The Bahamas and Chile both in 24th place, and Venezuela figures at the bottom.

This year’s results highlight the connection between corruption and inequality, which synergistically create a vicious circle of corruption, unequal distribution of power, and unequal distribution of wealth, said the index researchers.

“In too many countries, people are deprived of their most basic needs and go to bed hungry every night because of corruption, while the powerful and corrupt enjoy lavish lifestyles with impunity,” said José Ugaz, Chair of Transparency International

The interplay of corruption and inequality also feeds populism, said TI. When traditional politicians fail to tackle corruption, people grow cynical and are more include to elect populist leaders who promise to break the cycle of corruption and privilege. Yet this is likely to exacerbate – rather than resolve – the tensions that fed the populist surge in the first place.

Leading the index of countries examined in 2016 were Denmark and New Zealand with scores of 90/100. At the bottom of the ranking sit South Sudan with 11/100 and Somalia with 10/100, according to the index results.

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China Seizes Opportunities in Latin America

chinese-dragonChina has big plans for Latin America—plans that seem to reflect China itself: massive and ambitious.

There are plans for a $10 billion, 3,300-mile-long transcontinental railroad snaking through the jungles of the Amazon river basin and over the highest mountain range in Latin America, linking the Atlantic shore to the Pacific. There’s talk of a $50 billion supersized canal carving a 161-mile-long swath across Nicaragua, offering passage to the megatankers of tomorrow and overwhelming even the newly expanded Panama Canal to its south.

There are more. Many more. These gargantuan projects are aimed at fueling China’s needs for resources and feeding South America’s need for energy and infrastructure. But geopolitics also play a role as China strives to make Latin America an economic partner, if not a counterpoint to the United States.

In fact, China’s investments in Latin America, from mining to massive hydroelectric dams, nuclear reactors and railroads, grew by 500 percent between 2000 and 2010, totaling nearly $100 billion, with another $250 billion in spending promised over the next decade. And while the U.S. still accounts for more than three times as much in trade and investment in the region, some analysts see disturbing signs in the steadily shifting balance.

In 2000, the Chinese portion of Latin American trade was about 2 percent. The U.S. share was 53 percent. Ten years later, the Chinese share was up to 11 percent and the U.S. portion was down to 39 percent.

“Clearly we are still the dominant player vis-à-vis them,” says Francisco Cerezo, the U.S. head of DLA Piper’s Latin America corporate group. “But it does speak to the trend. And I would be more concerned about the trend and making sure you right the ship and you focus on it properly.”

The past two decades of forays into Latin America come as part of China’s “go global” plan. Its first priority: raw resources to fuel its economic growth. China is heavily, and increasingly, dependent on imported oil. Its energy needs led it to offer some $65 billion in loans to Venezuela’s government in the last decade, according to the Washington nonprofit Inter-American Dialogue, along with direct investments in oil production and infrastructure there.

China also single-handedly accounts for nearly a fourth of the world’s copper demand, along with significant demand for tin and iron ore. “That’s why you see them coming into Latin America’s mining sector, which is huge,” says Jerry Brodsky, a partner and director of the Latin American practice group at Peckar & Abramson. “It’s perhaps the largest economic driver in Latin America’s mining.”

China gets much of its copper from Chile, while the China-based Chinalco Mining Corp. International put $3.5 billion into the Toromocho mine in Central Peru, giving it control of “the world’s second largest preproduction copper project, as measured by proved and probable copper ore reserves,” according to the company’s website.

Now China is reaching beyond resources. Its latest wave of investments involves massive infrastructure and energy projects.

The China Three Gorges Corp. has been rapidly acquiring hydroelectric dams in Brazil since 2013, paying nearly $4 billion in June to take over operation of two of the country’s largest dams, with a combined capacity to produce 5 gigawatts of electricity. That came just three months after China Three Gorges announced a proposal to build a new 8-gigawatt dam on the Tapajos River.

China’s State Grid Corp. is developing two transmission lines to deliver power from the Belo Monte dam in the Amazon basin. Last year, state-owned China National Nuclear Corp. signed a $15 billion deal to build Argentina’s fourth and fifth nuclear power plants, roughly doubling the amount of electricity generated by the country’s nuclear plants. Construction of the first of the new reactors, in cooperation with Argentina’s state-owned Nucleoeléctrica, is due to begin early next year.

These projects come on top of the nearly $42 billion that China invested in infrastructure in Latin America in just 2013 through 2015 alone. China is finishing construction of a space tracking, telemetry and command facility in Patagonia, Argentina, complete with a pair of maneuverable parabolic antennas, engineering facilities, and a $10 million electric power plant.

China Harbour Engineering teamed up with local partners to win the contract for Autopista Mar 2, a 152-mile motorway connecting four towns north of Medellin, Colombia. And, in May, it landed a $465 million road contract in Costa Rica.

“They’re providing what the specific markets need,” says Brodsky. “They follow the path of least resistance. Latin American needs infrastructure. Brazil has an insufficient production of local energy. So does Argentina. The road projects in Colombia are booming right now because for 30 or 40 years they spent all their money fighting the guerrillas, and they didn’t pay attention to their road infrastructure. So now there is an accelerated program in Colombia for road building.”

The nature of the projects also plays to China’s strengths. Despite its recent economic slowdown, China remains flush with money from its boom years. Combined with the technical expertise that it has built with domestic projects and industries, those deep pockets allow China’s state-owned companies to compete at a scale that few challengers can match.

“When you get to that level of megaprojects, there are not that many qualified bidders out there­—people that have not only the technical capacity but the financial capacity,” Brodsky says, adding that Chinese companies “have the money to self-fund a lot of their projects, and that makes them very competitive when it comes to bidding for big, large projects in Latin America.”

Abridged, original article published here

Meet Canada’s new International Trade Minister

francois-phillippe-champagneFrançois-Phillippe Champagne, a lawyer who’s worked for a string of major multinationals, Champagne knows the world of global trade—but says Canadians must reap the benefits at home.

Arguably the biggest promotion in today’s federal cabinet shuffle goes to François-Philippe Champagne, who vaults from parliamentary secretary to Finance Minister Bill Morneau, a supporting role just outside cabinet, to succeeding Chrystia Freeland in the high-profile post of minister of international trade.

I say “arguably” because an obvious case could be made that Freeland is, in fact, the key moving part in the shuffle. In taking over from Stéphane Dion as foreign minister, she notches up noticeably in prestige and profile. But Champagne, previously known only to attentive Ottawa insiders, in a single stride becomes an unignorable front-bench player for anyone watching federal politics.

This doesn’t come entirely as a surprise. Before he jumped into politics, Champagne held down serious jobs in international business. A lawyer, he was senior counsel and vice-president at ABB Group, a Swiss engineering giant, and then had a string of titles, including strategic development director, at AMEC, a big London-based project-management company focused on the energy sector. But he never hid his political ambitions, and returned to Shawinigan, Que., where he grew up (yes, in Jean Chrétien’s hometown) to win the Saint-Maurice-Champlain riding in the 2015 election.

Last month, before rumours of an imminent cabinet shuffle were much in the wind, I interviewed him at his office just off Parliament Hill. An upbeat, diminutive, and youthful 46, he riffed confidently on the challenges facing the Canadian economy.

And now that he’s taking over the trade portfolio, Champagne’s perspective on Canada’s position in the world economy is even more relevant. He sees plenty of room for improvement. For instance, he cited Australia and Britain as countries that do a better job selling themselves to international investors. Canada’s profile abroad is too often, he suggested, a fragmented one.

“I have been in a room in London where provinces were pitching against each other,” he said, recalling his days in the private sector. “I didn’t think, as a Canadian ex-pat, this really was the best way.” Champagne touted Morneau’s plan to create something called the Invest in Canada Hub, announced in last fall’s economic statement, as a step toward a “one-stop shopping” solution to marketing the national brand.

He argued the time is right for Canada to present itself more assertively, checking off the country’s selling points in an unsettled world. “Stability, predictability? Yes, you can see ahead. Rule of law? You know, if you build a plant here, 50 years from now it’s still going to be yours; you’re not going to have a change of regime. And you talk natural resources, low cost of electricity, fairly low cost of doing business, favourable tax rates.”

After Champagne waxed on for a while about Canada’s advantages as an open, trading economy, and a beacon for foreign investment, I asked if that vision remains politically viable in the era of Donald Trump and Brexit. Isn’t it likely that many Canadians, deep down, share the anxieties of English and American voters who responded last year to more protectionist, defensive rhetoric?

Champagne said that’s not what he hears in his own rural and small-town Quebec riding. He claims voters there, from truck drivers to lumber industry workers, tend to grasp that trade is essential to their livelihoods. But it’s crucial, he argued, for governments to make sure most people can see the benefits of liberal economic policy flowing their way.

So he cited measures from last spring’s budget, including the new Canada Child Benefit and the boost to the Guaranteed Income Supplement for lowest-income seniors. “People get it,” he said. “They see that, from the growth that we’re aspiring to achieve for the country, there is a piece of that for them.”

And he contrasted that with the discontent he noticed, back when he was based for five years in London, over how globalized trade and investment seemed to benefit only “a very discrete group” of the highly educated Brits. He added cautiously: “It’s not for me to talk about other countries, but I’m just talking from personal experience. You could see at some stage there was this imbalance.”

For Canada to avoid a Brexit-like backlash, the economy must keep generating wealth and spreading it around. Champagne agrees with economists who say that will be hard to sustain, since our workforce just isn’t expanding like it used to. “A lot of the growth in our country came after World War Two, with the influx of population from Europe, mainly. Then in the 1970s, women came to the workforce,” he said. “Now what we’re facing is that population in Canada is aging more than the world population.”

He said the federal policy response to the demographic crunch of more retired and few working-age Canadians can’t be merely incremental. “In an era of slow growth we need to have big, bold ideas,” he said. “We need to be ambitious.”

Up to now, Champagne has worked in Morneau’s shadow, helping develop policy ideas like the finance minister’s infrastructure bank and investment hub. Freeland showed, when she was finalizing Canada’s trade deal with the European Union, how a trade minister can make a mark—and secure a cabinet promotion. Now, Trudeau is giving Champagne his chance, and Ottawa has a key new player to watch.

Article originally published here

4 Ways Technology can Help you Grow Your International Business in 2017

international-business-technology-2017

With the new year on the horizon, you’re likely setting goals and outlining strategies for growing your business in 2017. As you plan to improve your business in the year ahead, you should look at some key technologies that can help you manage your customers, your data and your products.

1. Customer Relationship Management software

 Every business thrives on healthy customer service and customer relationships. When you’re dealing with clients across the globe, especially as you expand, it can be difficult to keep track of all of your contacts. That’s where Customer Relationship Management (CRM) software can help.

CRM software enables you to create a database of all of your contacts that can be accessed by any applicable members of your team.

With CRM software, you can store a complete record of all of your company’s interactions with clients or potential clients. You can set up your database to capture each individual’s order history, concerns, business and personal information, and all points of contact they have had with members of your team, including phone calls, emails and chats.

CRM software is especially helpful when dealing with businesses on an international scale. It will help you and your team track where customers are located along with the languages they speak, local customs that you and your team need to be aware of and any applicable trade rules or restrictions.

CRM software can help you serve customers better by staying on top of their needs, concerns and preferences. It can also help your team to operate more efficiently, cutting down on time spent searching for information, emails or files related to their customers.

2. Cloud computing

At this point most people have heard of cloud technology, and nearly everyone who uses a computer, tablet or smartphone has used “the cloud” in some way. While the technology has become ubiquitous, you might not be aware of how cloud technology can improve your business’s operations.

When using cloud technology, your company’s digital operations take place on off-site servers that can be accessed from anywhere.

This can be particularly beneficial to companies operating on a global scale whose employees travel frequently or work remotely.

By using cloud technology, an employee on the go can access files and software utilized by the company back at headquarters from anywhere. It also means that any traveling employees can remain connected to staff back at the home office, whether it’s filing reports, sharing data or communicating seamlessly across international borders.

3. Logistics

Tracking technology For companies that buy or sell internationally, logistics can be the most troublesome part of doing business. Executing, receiving and tracking shipments requires a lot of careful consideration and planning, and shipments that go awry can cost time, money and customers.

To help organizations tackle these tasks more efficiently, innovative new technology is becoming available. Logistics management systems can help bear the brunt of the burden of international shipping. They can help plan trade routes, monitor any trade restrictions or problem areas, and track shipments.

Logistics tracking technology can also be a major help in reworking disrupted routes to get your deliveries back on track.

Electronic shipment tracking is also evolving quickly to help meet businesses’ needs. Once cost prohibitive, radio frequency identification (RFID) devices have become more affordable and attainable for companies to implement. As the technology becomes more accessible, Bluetooth beacons provide another option for electronically tracking shipments.

As both RFID and Bluetooth beacons become more commonplace, businesses will be able to take advantage of automatic identification and data capture (AIDC) in their supply chains, making it easier and more efficient to track and manage their goods.

4. Translation and language learning software and services

Language barriers can be a major challenge for global companies. It goes without saying that it’s crucial to be able to communicate effectively with customers, leads and business partners.

Web-based translation companies are improving their functions every day. They are sophisticated enough to translate and check your communications, at least for a first draft. While this technology has made great strides in recent years, it’s still advisable to have a fluent speaker or professional translator check your work to avoid any inaccuracies.

If you plan to do business with partners or customers in a region for an extended period of time, learning the language can save you money on translation costs, and it can help you provide better customer service.

To that end, there are plenty of reputable online programs and software that can help you become fluent in a foreign language.

As you plan to upgrade your business in 2017, don’t forget to explore all of the ways technology can help you grow, whether it’s by providing better customer service, keeping your employees connected, improving your logistics or helping you communicate with your customers.

Article by Jennifer Nesbitt originally printed here