Harpaz: Israel is very interested on Chile

Posted: August 14, 2012 by jennroig in English, Interviews
Tags: , , , , , ,

This is the unedited English version of the interview to Rafi Harpaz originally published by AmericaEconomia, on 19 December 2011.

Rafi Harpaz, director of the Economics Department of the Israeli Foreign Affairs Minister

Rafi Harpaz, director of the Economics Department of the Israeli Foreign Affairs Minister, visited Chile at the end of 2011, with the goal of assessing the opportunities for cooperation between the two countries, mostly to foster innovation and the exchange of knowledge, resources and technology.

First of all, why are you in Chile?

There are three main purposes for my trip. First, to discuss the bilateral economic relations between Israel and Chile. Both countries are members of the OECD, very developed economies, and there is a very deep interest on the Israelis in Chile. In Latin American in general, but in Chile specifically.

The second thing is to look for what is the potential in Chile for the Israeli private sector, how to develop businesses. And today is not only about exports anymore, with the global economy, today is also about imports, investments, R+D.

The third thing is to visit our embassy to find out what are the tools they need, in order to boost the work they do regarding the economic and businesses issues, if they need budget, manpower, etc.

The private sector in Israel is interested in developing businesses in Chile, which areas are the main center of this interest?

I found out while in this trip that we may share technologies and knowledge in a very important area: water first and foremost. Israel has the cutting-edge technology on water. We celebrated Watec in November, a conference introducing Israeli water technology to delegates from many countries. Israel is advanced in the technologies of desalination, it’s a big issue there, a high percent of the water consumption is desalinized water. The reusage of sewed water, 77% of sewed water is used for irrigation. We are number one on that matter, Spain lags behind.

A second area is agriculture. Israel has developed the irrigation technology.

The third area is renewable energy, solar energy specifically. I see the sun here and is strong. You can take a lot of advantage over that fact. In Israel every house has a solar panel. It’s wonderful how much electricity you can save in a house just with using solar panels.

Fourth is homeland security. Israel is inviting airports’ directors to learn from the experience there.

But there is something we are really looking forward to learn from Chile and it’s on the matter of earthquakes, because Israel is situated in a place highly sensitive to earthquakes and chile has a lot of expertise. The last big earthquake in Israel was in 1847 century but we know it may happen eventually again and we want to be prepared.

The last thing is the high-tech industry. I was told Chile is not highly developed in terms of this kind of industry and Israel is an international player.

And then, why we are so very much interested in Chile rather than other Latin American countries?

Well, I find many things that are similar in out economies. We need to diversify the market and the products for exports. We are highly dependent on exports, and today 30% of our trade is with the US. Another 30% is with the EU, 20% is with the far east countries especially India, and 5,5% is with Latin America. Three years ago it used to be 3,8% and it goes up. But if we want to look strategically toward the future, not only to the next year but on the long term, we need to look for new markets, and in Israel we care for Latin America.

I came now from Montevideo. Uruguay is now the president of MERCOSUR. Israel is the first country outside Latin America to hold a free trade agreement with Mercosur. We discussed about it there and the trade is going up.

Chile and Israel, in terms of how their governments work, are really different places. Let’s say the Israeli government is by far more influencial on the Israeli economy than Chile’s government is. So, how strong and determinant is the influence from the State of Israel on the innovation matter, in all this development you’ve described?

Well, it is not maby so different, because in Israel, as in Chile, a lot of innovation is created by the private sector. Of course, there are moments when the government intervenes, like when we succeeded in overcoming the the economic crisis in 2009. This was due to the very conservative fiscal policy applied by the government, strong monitoring of the finances. But Israel is very attractive for investments.

I think our economies actually complete each other. The Chilean economy is very impressive. Just a look at the numbers and there’s the sense of economic growth, the figures of external debt are outstanding, we’d like that in Israel.

And what has the role of the universities been in all this development?

Well, 5% of the gdp in israel goes to R+D. The number one is the oil sector. The research we do serves to the industrial sectors, which means that all the universities and the units of commercialization of the industries collaborate to apply the technology to businesses. There’s a strong connection between the businesses and the academia.

In this sense we are very unique as we are creating many R+D bilateral agreements.

And how has the univerity developed the talent to create such amount of innovation, considering Israel is a relatively young country? The talent in Israel is home grown or has it being imported?

We are very creative as a society and innovation is a key element of preparing for the future. The challenge for us is to find new things, in every area, in every profession.

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Comments
  1. jennroig says:

    Comment retrieved from my Linkedin, by Pedro Flores:
    “There is also tourism. According to Sernatur, in 2011 alone more than 30,000 Israelis traveled to Chile. That’s twice as much as New Zealand, which has daily non-stop flights to Chile, and almost the same number from Spain. Chile has become an interesting destination for Israelis travelers and this should be taked into consideration by ProChile” (Even if numbers are slightly different in the Sernatur’s website, Flores’ point remains relevant: http://www.sernatur.cl/institucional/scripts/estadisticas.php) (http://www.sernatur.cl/estadisticas-sernatur)

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