Regional meeting elicits voice of LATAM and Caribbean business to fight COVID-19

  • 5 June 2020

ICC Secretary General John W.H. Denton AO convened a regional meeting this week, marking the establishment of a Latin America (LATAM) and Caribbean Action Group. The group will bolster efforts towards an historic ICC commitment to help digitise a million SMEs worldwide.

The virtual meeting brought together representatives from chambers and ICC representative offices (national committees), in Latin America to drive recovery in the region and understand specific challenges at regional level to feed into global debate.

Economist Rebeca Grynspan, Secretary General of Ibero-American and former Vice-President of Costa Rica, addressed the meeting, with a view to build upon on-going discussions to identify how chambers of commerce and ICC national committees in the region can collaborate further to fight COVID-19 and its devastating effects on lives and livelihoods in the region.

Describing the combination of the current health, social and economic crises as a “perfect storm” Ms Grynspan said that most countries in the region did not have the economic strength to protect lives and livelihoods through delivery of strong recovery packages in relation to GDP. Despite swift action taken by countries in the region at the outset of the crisis, Ms Grynspan said that the pandemic had nevertheless impacted the region strongly due to structural weakness in the health sector, fiscal space and in terms of poverty and inequality issues.

Calling for the private sector to continue playing a proactive role towards recovery, Ms Grynspan said:

“If the business net weakens than it will take us too long to recover growth patterns. Quality of leadership will be a determinant for the trajectory of these countries….If we have quality leadership in the private sector, in civil society, and in governments, coming together to take decisions, we can drive through this crisis with less pain and suffering than previous crises.”

ICC has spurred an unprecedented mobilisation of national committees in Latin American and the Caribbean – and more than 200 chambers of commerce in the region – to take action against COVID-19.

Maria Fernanda Garza, Chair of ICC Mexico and ICC Regional Coordinator for the Americas said:

“The COVID-19 crisis should bring an opportunity to lay the foundations of a new social contract, moving towards stronger social protection, better public services, greater well-being and environmental sustainability… an inclusive and sustainable international governance based on the 2030 Agenda”.

The meeting saw strong consensus on the need to save micro- small- and medium-sized enterprises (MSMEs), highlighting ICC’s recently launched global campaign to Save Our SMEs.

Nicolas Uribe Rueda, President of the Bogota Chamber of Commerce and Regional Vice-Chair of the World Chambers Federation said:

“MSMEs are protagonists in the response to the crisis and to recovery efforts. Business formalisation is the key to accessing opportunities during and after the crisis.  The actors will have to work articulately and collaboratively to open the way to formality, in this way livelihoods and business will be protected. The actions and  new policies must be based on sustainability, equity and solidarity.”

Mr Rueda said: It is important to design new Development Cooperation Instruments in Latin-America that allow the implementation of regional reconversion programmes, recovery of businesses, and reconstruction of value chains in the region. Governments, business support organisations, and small businesses must collaboratively develop and coordinate the immediate response to the crisis. Multilateral institutions can support national actors in these efforts and, in an interconnected world, these institutions play a crucial role in coordinating responses at the international level.”