strategic and international studies

Are the new rules of play between States and Multinationals in Latin America beneficial? An analysis of the impact of extractive multinationals in Bolivia

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Changes in the recent history of Bolivia have drawn attention to the role that Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) has in development, and to the impact of new rules that are redefining the relationship between the State and transnational corporations. These changes in the rules of play represent a trend that has appeared in various countries in the region and which could continue to deepen, as demonstrated by recent events concerning Repsol in Argentina and Red Eléctrica Española (REE) in Bolivia. As a result of the accumulation of their investment and the strategic relevance of the sectors in which they concentrate, Spanish multinationals play a crucial role on the continent, and it is therefore imperative to analyze the impact of their activity when checking the consistency of their claims to legitimacy, in both past and potential disputes. This paper[1] provides a step forward in the ongoing analytical assessment of the presence of foreign investment companies and investment projects in specific developing countries (in this case, Bolivia), and toward that purpose it applies the Elcano Royal Institute’s Foreign Direct Investment (FDI-D) analytical framework. We analyze three sectors that have been major recipients of foreign investment in Bolivia and which play a crucial role in the economy: hydrocarbons, mining, and agribusiness. In addition to contributing to the theoretical reflection on methodological and epistemological capabilities when evaluating such phenomena, this paper provides some practical conclusions for the country. Although the effects vary, there is tension between an increasingly positive contribution in areas easily modified by legislative action, such as fiscal action, and the need (at the expense of generating risk for development if it fails) of a greater contribution to development-related aspects, more specifically those linked to the domestic market.

Carlos Macías, Former Analyst at the Elcano Royal Institute.

[1] English version of ‘¿Son beneficiosas las nuevas reglas del juego entre Estados y multinacionales en América Latina?: análisis del impacto en el desarrollo de multinacionales extractivas en Bolivia’ (DT 6/2012, Real Instituto Elcano), originally published on 28 May 2012.

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