ECLAC, 18 and 19 October, 2012.
The 2008-09 economic and financial crisis accelerated shifts towards the South both in terms of global demand, production networks and global value chains (GVC). The spread of information and communication technologies and the search for economies of scale and new sources of technical efficiency have facilitated in particular the unbundling of services activities and cross-border trade, particularly business services. Thus, offshore services in particular have emerged as a dynamic sector in the past two decades and are increasingly inducing new patterns of structural change in Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC).
Offshore services began with the outsourcing of information technologies to external firms (IT maintenance, basic software operations, hosting, data entry and conversion) and gradually evolved to various forms of business process outsourcing (BPO) which in turn comprise enterprise resource planning (ERP), human resource management (HRM) and customer relationship management (CRM). Now the challenge is to upgrade to knowledge process outsourcing (KPO) which include research and development (R&D); product development and more advanced vertical functions and activities in the value chain.
In LAC this sector has also suffered less from the past crisis than other sectors in the real economy since offshore services are typically business-to-business and based on multi-year contracts, which counteract the downturns of the business cycle, consumer demand and price volatility (Gereffi and Fernandez-Stark, 2010). One of the key issues to be examined are the structural changes taking place in business services before and after the crisis. However, evidence on these issues for Latin America and the Caribbean remains scant and elusive.
In this context, the UN Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC), the Latin American and Caribbean Network on Services Research (REDLAS) and the WTO chairs in Mexico City (ITAM), Santiago (University of Chile), and Buenos Aires (FLACSO Argentina) in cooperation with the World Trade Institute (University of Bern) organize a joint academic conference which seeks to enhance the knowledge and exchange views on the abovementioned topics.