Science, technology and foreign policy

One of the central dimensions for analyzing the relationship between foreign policy and development is technology, extended to innovation and science. To this end, the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) publishes each year the “Global Innovation Index”. In the year 2022, the 15th edition of this report produced figures that must be marked to interpret the link between the pattern of international insertion and the development model. The report has a challenging subheading about the prospects for this connection: What is the future of driving innovation?

History demonstrates an interrelationship between what we can call the “Double Tripod of Development.” On the one hand, the relationship between the State, the market and the academy; on the other hand, the link between innovation, science and technology. No country has achieved high levels of growth leaving development solely in the hands of the market or suffocating the productive forces with an overwhelming state.

As Don (1999) has said in “Revolutionary adaptations”, advances in science and technology impact the international scene as trade, conflict and politics emerge. According to the report, measured by region, innovation occurred first in the following countries: Latin America and the Caribbean (Chile, Brazil, Mexico); Europe (Switzerland, Sweden, UK); North America (United States and Canada); Central and South Asia (India, Iran, Uzbekistan); Southeast Asia, East Asia and Oceania (Republic of Korea, Singapore and China).

For his part, Headrick (2012) in “Power over peoples: Technology, vironments, and Western imperialism, 1400 to the present”, showed the forcefulness of this relationship and in another book “The Tools of Empire: Technology and European Imperialism in the Nineteenth Century” (1979) analyzed the link between European expansion and technological innovations. In this sense, in the section “Global Innovation Index 2022 rankings” on the innovative vanguard, ten countries appear: Switzerland, the United States, Sweden, the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, the Republic of Korea, Singapore, Germany, Finland, Denmark. Argentina occupies the 69th place and the last space is number 132, which is occupied by Guinea. Two Latin American countries appear within the “upper-middle income group”: Brazil and Peru. In the section “Government budget allocations for R&D, 2019, 2020 and 2021”, only Colombia and Mexico are among the 19 countries that allocate the largest budget to innovation for development -by the way, far from the first two- : United States and Japan.

Likewise, Herz (1976) in “Technology, Ethics, and International Relations” understands that the area of ​​international relations is where the impact of technological advances has had the most influence. A statement that is reinforced by Charney (1982) in his work “International Technology and Negotiations” who transfers this influence to international law. This allows us to understand the conclusions of the Report that show this importance. Despite the economic recession caused by the pandemic and the Russian invasion of Ukraine – which pushed down investments in these sectors – state allocations in science and innovation have been maintained and increased. In turn, although the pandemic has left negative traces in this dimension, there are no conclusive evidences to confirm it.

The person who was aware of this dimension to analyze Argentina’s foreign policy was Carlos Escudé (1992). In his work “Peripheral Realism: Fundamentals for the New Argentine Foreign Policy” he expressed that “the competition for a privileged international insertion can be realized only among those who are in a position to compete (among other things) for the technological vanguard.”

In this sense, it is becoming increasingly necessary for innovation, science and technology policy, accompanied by excellent education, to be a State policy for the development of our country and enhance its international projection.

*Professor and Researcher at the UBA. Compiler and author of the Manual of Argentine Foreign Policy.

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