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José W. Fernández: "We cannot depend on a single country in supply chains"


The Undersecretary for Economic Growth of the United States maintains that cooperation between the United States, Europe and Latin America has become closer with the war in Ukraine

José W. Fernández, in a file image from May 2022. Dwayne Senior (Bloomberg)

José W. Fernández, born in Cienfuegos (Cuba) in 1955, has been Undersecretary for Economic Growth, Energy and the Environment in the Government of Joe Biden for a little over a year, within the State Department, where he deals with matters such as change climate, clean energy, health, supply chain security and other economic priorities.

He was also part of the Barack Obama Administration and in the private sector he has stood out as a partner at Gibson Dunn & Crutcher LLP in New York specializing in mergers, acquisitions and finance in Europe and emerging markets, advising US and foreign clients in the telecommunications, energy, water, banking and consumption.

He was also a director of the Spanish Iberdrola between 2015 and 2021, before assuming his current position.

He gives the interview on the outskirts of the forum 'Latin America, the United States and Spain in the global economy', organized by EL PAÍS and the Spain-United States Chamber of Commerce;

sponsored by Abertis, Baker & McKenzie, Hiberus and Iberia, with the collaboration of the OEI (Organization of Ibero-American States), in which he spoke with a speech in which he underlined the transatlantic ties that unite Spain with the United States and the strong relationship of both with Latin America.

José W. Fernández argues that globalization and economic cooperation remain strong after the Ukraine war, but that supply chains cannot be so dependent on one or two countries, in apparent reference to China.


How has the Ukraine war affected America's economic collaboration with Europe?


The Russian invasion has cemented the cooperation we have.

For example, in the Council on Trade and Technology, the cooperation that we have had has been great and every time we meet, the goals are even more ambitious, on issues such as supply chains, on semiconductors or energy issues.

We have coordinated the Russian export controls, which grows out of the cooperation that we already had.

Both sides have realized the possibility of our cooperation and this is what we are seeing in our relations with Europe.


What opportunities does the Inflation Reduction Act provide for foreign investors in the United States?


It is a good opportunity, especially in the field of clean energy, and what it shows is the commitment on the part of the President Biden Administration to meet the goals we have set for ourselves to reach a clean future in 2050. clean energies there is a very important amount, almost 400,000 million dollars.

For the first time we are responding to something that China has done for many years, which is the industrial policy of encouraging this type of investment.

The law, for example, encourages the manufacture of electric batteries in the United States and gives a discount to those who buy those cars.

It is something that is not limited to American companies.

As long as they're here, we're going to give that kind of support.


Aren't those laws that in practice require that some products be manufactured in the United States somewhat protectionist?

The European Union, for example, has not received well some of the provisions on the electric car.


It is legislation that took a long time, but what we are trying to do is fulfill the commitments that we have made in terms of getting to this clean future.

Naturally, we can criticize some aspects, but in general, we have received good criticism from our allies and I do understand that there are some reservations, but it is something that as allies, we are going to continue talking to the Europeans and others.


With the pandemic and the war in Ukraine, is there taking place a certain step backwards in globalization and a greater economic nationalism on the part of the countries?


Not the other way around.

We are realizing that we are tied and together.

What's going on?

That we must recognize that globalization needs certain modifications.

We have to avoid a globalization that leaves many people behind and creates an economic gap in our societies.

What we are experiencing, for example, with Ukraine, is that the United States has become the leading exporter of liquid natural gas in Europe, with more than 50%.

This shows that the solutions in one continent may be in another, in another continent, and that is what we have to pursue.

At the same time, it must be clear that globalization has also left many people behind and therefore the challenge is to find a way to incorporate this society.

It's hard to do, but we've all realized that it's not just about globalizing,

but also to include more strata of the population and to make sure that the production chains, the supply chains, are diverse and safer than they were.

We cannot depend on one country or two countries.


Has the United States neglected something, its relationship with Latin America for the benefit of Chinese influence?


The ties with Latin America, in my opinion, have become closer in recent years.

There are more Spanish speakers in the United States than in Spain.

We are the first investor in Latin America and the largest trading partner of the vast majority of Latin American countries.

And something very important, which is not talked about much, while the trade between China and Latin America will be a dozen products, a large part of natural resources, with us there are hundreds of products.

It is a much broader type of trade, with much more antiquity.

And it is something that we want to deepen even more.


At the Summit of the Americas, many health, education, and economic alliances were presented or announced... Isn't there a feeling that these great declarations don't end up becoming a reality?


It is the challenge.

In all diplomacy it is not only about announcing something, but about making it happen.

We start from a very strong base, of 200 years or more of common history with the independent Latin American countries, we are talking about human relations that, in my opinion, are the envy of many countries.

We have the luxury of having a border with our two best allies.

Much of the world would like to have that relationship and what we have to do is deepen it, but we start from a very strong base.

Regarding the declarations, we can be criticized for being ambitious, but the challenge, and it is something that both Secretary of State Antony Blinken and President Biden have made very clear, is that we have to make things happen.

It is what we intend.


How do you rate the presence of Spanish companies in the United States?


I know Spain well, I have lived and studied there and I have followed it a lot and I am always amazed at the evolution of the Spanish economy and Spanish exports.

It's not just olives and wine.

It's transportation, energy, technology... It's another level.

And it's something we can go deeper into.

The United States has become a very important destination for Spanish investments and it has done well, just as our companies have had very good experiences in Spain in many sectors.


Because what companies in any part of the world want is a secure, stable legal system and a government that wants to receive their investment.

And both here we and Spain have welcomed foreign investment.

Source: elparis

All business articles on 2022-09-25

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