The presidents of Chile, Colombia, Peru and the Mexican Secretary of Economy were interviewed on the 21 September at an event by the Americas Society/Council of the Americas.
What did they talk about that could give us an indication of their perspectives about the PA?
The discussion tackled all sort of issues including, to a large extent, domestic concerns of the PA members such as the peace agreement in Colombia and how it could increase prospects of trade in tourism services and agricultural industries, as well as a package of domestic reforms to encourage formalisation of businesses in Peru promoted by President Kuczynski. The panel members presented their views on the likelihood of Trump becoming the next US president with the Mexican Secretary bringing out a colourful remark. The crisis in Venezuela and the question of whether the PA should be doing a bit more on this subject matter was also raised. No clear common view on a positive action of the PA members in this topic was envisioned.
With this range of issues on the table, a couple of interesting points were mentioned about the PA.
President Bachelet pointed out that the main topics of interest to work on during Chile’s pro-tempore presidency were: education, innovation, science and technology, trade facilitation, internationalisation of SMEs, the implementation of the Commercial Protocol, the cooperation agenda with the 49 observer states and finally convergence with ASEAN and APEC. The ambitious list of topics refers greatly to matters related broadly to intergovernmental cooperation, but there is still the query on the extent to which the priority topics relate to the goal of deep integration and the free movement of services, people, capital, and goods. President Bachelet did not refer to the particular instruments and mechanisms through which the priority topics will be addressed but in practice they include interesting efforts such as the SMEs Observatory (alianzapacifico.net) and an Entrepreneurial Capital Fund, the interoperability of the single window clearance systems and later mutual recognition of the authorised economic operators once the program of authorised economic operators is fully implemented by the members.
Ildefonso Guajardo, Mexico’s Secretary of Economy, referred to some aspects in which the PA should be working on in order to achieve real economic integration. He brought up services liberalisation among the PA members as a strategic issue, new ways to approach common markets more efficiently and more generally alluded to better public policies to support this integration. Despite the relevance of all the topics mentioned by Guajardo it was not clear to me how much progress the PA has made on this front and whether these topics are part of the PA agenda in the short and long term. In addition, he presented a view calling on the need to make the PA a priority for the members and the call to ‘open up to action.’ These views imply the relevance of addressing topics that are more controversial and sensitive among the PA members if deep integration is to be achieved. These topics include regulatory coordination and reduction of heterogeneity in areas like taxation regimes towards deeper capital market integration.
Finally, the signature of an agreement with ASEAN was announced during the event which hopefully could lead the PA to more concrete activities and the development of an agenda towards the enhancement of an economic relation with the Asia Pacific Region.
To see the full webcast, please visit the link below.