The former president of Colombia argues that dealing with globalization is an imperative for all countries. He describes how he tried to build relationships with other nations when he was head of state, with an eye toward working together to solve major problems—such as narco-trafficking, terrorism, and resource constraints—that cross borders.
Q: How important a factor is globalization in the economic development of Colombia?
Álvaro Uribe: Globalization today is not a political option. It is an imperative derived from the mentality of the people and from the IT revolution. One thing—or not one thing—globalization is unavoidable. Therefore, we need to be prepared to have the best performance in globalization for it is very important. Education. Lifetime education. All level education. The combination of technology and at the same time, of R and D. The combination of education at the level of vocation and training and university. Looking at the world, in accordance with the outlook of many points I have already said to you. What the world in percentual terms will need—increasing the supply of food, of energy and of potable water. In the middle of one, increasing difficulty: that limitations in productivity. Therefore, we need to look at globalization through these lenses.
Q: How crucial have strategic relations with other countries been for Colombia's development?
Uribe: When you look at other countries, you can look at it as a competitor or as a collaborator. You need to compete and at the same time, cooperate. For example, when we speak about the new era of relationship between the United States and Latin America, in my opinion, we should not abandon the fight against narco-terrorism. We need to win. And is a winnable action. But we need to place much more emphasis on how to integrate much more of our economies. On how to sell to set social goals. On how to fulfill these social goals. Or how to work together in solving problems of the basket—energy basket, of full security, of natural resources, of potable water. There is a great agenda of a specific needs that could be included in any new approach between Latin America, the Caribbean, on the one side, and the United States on the other.
Q: Are these agreements enough to transform an economy on their own?
Uribe: Don’t you need to have agreements on investment? Because if you have a—you sign a free trade agreement and your country has not a high rate of investment, therefore how can your country become competitive? When I was asked about the necessity of the ratification in the USA Congress on the free trade agreement with Columbia, I remember that my answer was this: I am not quite hopeful that in the short term, Columbia could dramatically expand or increase its exports to the United States, but signing this agreement would give the world a clear hint of confidence in Columbia and it would be very helpful for Columbia to have domestic and foreign investment.