As Colombia starts its pro tempore presidency of the Pacific Alliance for a year, it seems timely to examine the road ahead and how its presidency could contribute to progress on the already populated agenda of the PA. This post is the first of a series of contributions that will tackle relevant issues that could be targeted as future works for the mechanism.
It is worth mentioning the multiple areas and topics in which the PA is currently working that make it difficult to map out the actual activities and progress in each of them. As it is reported in its website (alianzapacifico.net) there are currently 20 technical groups and one subcommittee working on topics such as: digital agenda, innovation, public procurement, gender, cooperation, culture, tourism, SMEs, intellectual property, education, mining development, services and capital, public procurement, trade and integration, communications strategy, expert group on the CEAP, promotion agencies, regulatory improvement, international fiscal transparency, movement of persons, and external relations. The establishment of two more groups one on labour and the other on green growth and the environment was also envisioned in presidential declarations. However, up to today, it is not clear if the latter two groups have been established although the Cali Presidential Declaration provides for actions regarding green growth and the environment. Notwithstanding these works the PA is also undertaking joint activities on fisheries and aquaculture, health and access to medicines, and consumer protection.
The previous list does not include the regular instances of the commercial protocol including several committees on services (financial services, joint committee on services and investment, subcommittee on services, and subcommittee on investment), a committee on technical barriers to trade (TBT committee), a committee on Sanitary and Phytosanitary Measures (SPS committee), a committee on rules of origin and other specialized committees on single windows and authorised economic operators.
The parallel agenda of the Ministries of Finance has also given birth to four more ad hoc working groups: on infrastructure; financial integration; services trade; and catastrophic risks.
Perhaps after six years of work, the time has come to ‘tidy up the house’ implementing processes for administration and monitoring the progress in each area and working group. Consider the progress made by each of the existing groups in their programs and evaluate whether the works should continue or cease. There is a risk that the fast expansion and width on the variety of topics come at the expense of actual depth and real progress. This could be the case mainly because there lacks a clear vision on what the Pacific Alliance intends to achieve.
For the future a rule of thumb to be implemented in the establishment of new groups is the requirement to justify the need for its creation and why the issues that the group is intending to tackle can not be addressed through the already existing groups. Furthermore, the definition of the working plan for the potential group should include how it is planning to coordinate actions with the already existing groups as the cross-cutting issues would demand it.
I look forward to hearing from you on how basic organisational principles could be implemented in tidying up the house!