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Colloquium proposes ideas to strengthen Australia-Latin America relations

15 October 2014
Latin American Colloquium 2014

The 8th UQ-Latin American Colloquium last week showed the need for Government, industry and academia to address persisting barriers to strengthen Australia-Latin America relations.

A strong view emerging from the Colloquium was that the current focus by the Australian government, education institutions and industry on Asia could potentially lead to an underestimation of opportunities in other regions and especially Latin America. Profiling opportunities and advocating greater education, cultural, trade and investment links tends to be left to the dedicated few including those present at the Colloquium.

Jose Blanco, Chairman of Australia, Latin America Business Council (ALABC), and moderator of the Colloquium’s panel on Opportunities and barriers to trilateral partnerships said three key barriers need to be addressed in order to further collaboration among Latin America, Australia and Asia.

These hurdles include securing increased air services between Australia and Latin America, thereby providing more direct, cheaper and frequent flights to other destinations in the region; a visit to the region at prime ministerial level during the term of each government; and an increase in Spanish and Portuguese language education in Australian schools.

The lack of language proficiency in Spanish and Portuguese in Australia is a clear barrier to further student exchange.

Argentinian Ambassador and Dean of Group of Latin American Ambassadors to Australia, His Excellency Pedro Villagra Delgado, said the number of Latin American students to Australia has increased fivefold in the last five years, with many coming to Queensland and specifically to UQ.

However, the number of Australian students in Latin America is still minimal. Ambassador Mr Villagra said that they would like to have also students from Queensland going into their countries.

The Colloquium also showed that the shared interests and synergies across the regions present numerous opportunities. The challenge is to develop appropriate strategies to explore the real potential of these opportunities.

Networks with the Latin American Ambassadors, industry and alumni are critical in harnessing opportunities for collaboration.

Colloquium organizer and UQ Global Engagement Regional Manager Latin America Aleyda Perez Soler believes the event achieved this year’s goal of highlighting the importance of continuing to build close and effective relations with Latin America despite the Australian Government’s focus on Asia.

This year’s Colloquium also confirmed UQ’s sustained and strategic commitment to long-term engagement in Latin America.

During the event, the university announced the introduction of a Latin American Studies minor in the Bachelor of Arts, Bachelor of Arts dual degrees and Diploma in Arts from Semester 1 2015. The course rationale will include mention of the place of indigenous issues in colonial and modern Latin American, and in the pre-Hispanic period.

Ambassador Mr Villagra commended the University for its efforts in strengthening Australia-Latin America relations.

“The work UQ has been doing over these last years and events like this one go in the right direction by precisely facilitating this mutual knowledge and forging new partnerships.

“This university has been the most active in its engagement with Latin America in this country and we value that commitment.

“The announcement that a degree with a minor in our region has just been approved is clear proof of that. We welcome this auspicious development which will go a long way in promoting better knowledge and understanding of Latin America in Australia,” the Ambassador said.

Media: Ms Aleyda Perez Soler, Regional Manager - Latin America, UQ Global Engagement,a.perezsoler@uq.edu.au, +61 7 3346 0549.

Please visit the Latin American Colloquium website for resources from the event.

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