The Pacific Alliance Blog spoke to Angelica Guerra-Baron about her outstanding PhD research investigation on constructing a collective identity in the Pacific Alliance.
Ms Guerra holds a PhD in Political Science and Government from the Pontifical Catholic University of Peru where she also works as co-researcher for the International and Regional Order’s group (GIOR by its Spanish Acronym). She has been a professor, lecturer, and thesis advisor at prestigious universities in Colombia and Peru
. Ms Guerra was a legal advisor for the Directorate of Investment, Services and Intellectual Property at the Colombian Ministry of Trade, Industry and Tourism. Her research interests are collective identities and narratives, foreign policy, economic governance (foreign investment, services), and legal and regulatory aspects.
Ms Guerra, how did you become interested in the topic of collective identity in the Pacific Alliance?
As a lawyer trained in international affairs (with an emphasis on economics), engaged in public policies and academic research, I was keen on linking social sciences and political affairs. Around 2014, I was working on the Foucauldian idea and the relation between power and knowledge. During the process, I realised the theoretical and empirical importance of such analysis applied to International Relations (IR). I also became aware of the necessity to incorporate both knowledge and power to study collective identities. Additionally, at that point, the South American political landscape was of great interest, especially under the influence of Hugo Chavez’s cosmovision regarding the regional order.
Thus, South America witnessed the rising of multiple and contradictory identities of intergovernmental and supranational regional schemes. All these factors combined drew a clear path for me to study the Pacific Alliance.
Before going into more details of your current research, what does a collective identity mean? Why is it important?
To grasp the concept of collective identity, we must first divide the terms. Social sciences defined identity as an explicative element of social phenomena. That concept has spread to different disciplines; even shifting away from ethics, philosophy, IR, political science, and social psychology towards entrepreneurship by applying it to the productive sector, client’s relations, and trademarks branding. This spreading made it possible to find the concept’s brass in its broader explicative scope and explanatory capacity. Thus, identity may be applied to a wide range of subjects, either individually or collectively.
As I stated to UNU-CRIS Blog Connecting Ideas, a collective identity is a social category that defines who we are (as a group). Based on Abdelal’s work (2006, 2009), a collective identity content may be analysed through its normative dimension, relational comparisons (Self-Other), collective objectives (as I call it), or its cognitive dimension. My thesis addressed all these variables to successfully unwrap the concept’s complexity and constant evolution through an identitarian lens.
Studying the PA’s collective identity is crucial to unravel its dynamism and key features. The concept’s relevance lies in the necessity to reinforce medium and long-term plans, performance and implementation strategies, and sustainability ‒despite or within political and economic distress.
What did you conclude about the process of constructing a collective identity in the Pacific Alliance? Which factors/drivers lead to this process?
This research allowed me to conclude ‒ among other aspects ‒ that there is a collective identity within the PA. I unveiled the global, regional, and domestic drivers that triggered the PA’s creation process and its performance simultaneously.
The three-level analysis pushed me to comprehend the ongoing cyclical relationship between the drivers, as well as shifts and continuities from a narrative perspective. This approach also spotlighted the reasons behind the PA’s creation, voyaging beyond macroeconomic variables, international trade interests or foreign policy convergence. Furthermore, my methodology exposed the PA’s identity patterns and their potentials, thus facilitating better and deeper public-private partnerships – for example.
The results reached are methodologically grounded on an inductive qualitative study based on an interactive coding process.
You suggest that collective identity in the Pacific Alliance has taken place in different stages. Could you elaborate more on this view?
The methodological approach – mentioned before – allowed me to identify consistency from the key agents and private stakeholders, unearthing narrative plots along the research period (2007-2014). Each one of them was time-framed into three distinguishable stages: Genesis (2007-2010), which corresponds with the Latin American Pacific Basin Forum (ARCO in Spanish); High ministerial meetings (October 2010-April 2011); and Public announcement, formalisation, and implementation (April 2011-2013), which is riddled with substages. Additionally, I tackled impugnation ‒ another dimension of collective identity ‒ and its expression (discourses and narratives) (2014).
What agents and actors were and have been involved in this process of constructing a collective identity?
Relevant IR literature and regionalism studies usually focus on the role that presidents and foreign ministries play in shaping collective identities. However, I realised that incorporating other state agents (close advisors, technocratic teams, IOs) and private actors was not only helpful but necessary to understand the PA dynamics and future development. In a nutshell, identifying the PA identity patterns ‒ its very nature ‒ means uncovering its symbolic power under its international involvement, transcending beyond the network of international investment treaties that lie beneath.
If you are interested to know more about Ms Guerra’s work regarding the Pacific Alliance, please visit our online library featuring her academic articles and book chapters.
You may also reach out to Ms Guerra at Academia.edu
Ms Guerra’s views in this Blog are personal and do not reflect the policies and opinions of the institutions she is affiliated with.
The Pacific Alliance Blog chatted with Ulf Thoene and Roberto Garcia Alonso about their original and interesting article on Social Entrepreneurship in the Pacific Alliance and the factors that could facilitate this type of entrepreneurship.*
Ulf is a lecturer and researcher at Universidad de La Sabana in Bogota, Colombia. He holds a PhD and a Master of Laws (LLM) from the University of Warwick; a Graduate Diploma in Economics from the University of Nottingham; and a Bachelor of Arts (BA) in History from the University of Sheffield. His research interests are business ethics; informal employment; and regional integration. He has previous experience in socio-legal research and competition policy in regional contexts.
Roberto is a lecturer and researcher at Universidad de La Sabana in Bogota, Colombia. He holds a PhD in Political Science and Public Administration and a MA in Democracy and Government from the Universidad Autonoma de Madrid; a BA in Law and a BA in Political Science and Public Administration from the same university. His research interests are international relations.
How did you become interested in the topic of Social Entrepreneurship, particularly in the Pacific Alliance?
Social Entrepreneurship has become an effective alternative to address social issues worldwide through innovation as a means of creating sustainable social value. It enables empowering people to take ownership of their development; hence, requiring enhanced capacity-building efforts. As a result, Regional integration has become an effective development strategy as it fosters joint capacity building actions between countries to reduce inequality gaps. Specifically, the Pacific Alliance, recognising the region’s relative backwardness and potential in Social Entrepreneurship, devotes significant spaces and actions to entrepreneurship and innovation.
What opportunities do you see for Social Entrepreneurship in the regional context of the Pacific Alliance? Is it feasible to see regional Social Entrepreneurship growing in the medium-term?
Although the region exhibits dissimilar development paths, the PA’s interdependent regionalism offers flexibility and legitimacy in its decision-making, evaluation, discussion, and approval processes. The PA promotes cooperation, economic growth, consensus, and participation as a means to overcome inequality.
This backdrop offers meaningful possibilities for Social Entrepreneurship (SE) as a bottom-up strategy embedded within the PA’s framework. SE combines diverse actors, including local organisations, NGOs, governmental institutions, and the private sector, while promoting cooperation systems. This environment creates a unique opportunity for social innovation based on actor’s common objectives and experiences. This is especially true for Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs), which contribute to job creation and economic growth.
SE can be extrapolated to all the region and adjusted to each country’s specific characteristics thanks to its local foundations and PA’s common cooperation goals. Under the current pandemic context, we will likely see a growing digital-based, and innovative SE as entrepreneurs find new ways to create businesses seeking to safely reach consumers while generating social change, sustainability, and growth through inclusiveness, environmental protection, and income generation.
To what extent are Social Entrepreneurship and sustainable development connected?
The Pacific Alliance Blog conversed recently with Julia Borba, our new contributor, about her research regarding the relationship between the Pacific Alliance and Brazil.
Ms Borba commented that she became interested in examining the relationship between Brazil and the Pacific Alliance from a detailed review of the bibliographical sources about Brazilian Foreign Policy, regionalism and regional integration in Latin America. From the appraisal of this literature, she realised there was a standard viewpoint that Brazil abandoned the open regionalism tenets since the 2000s. There was also a consensus on Brazil’s prioritisation of South America as its geographic space for foreign action.
Thus, Julia engaged in studying how the Pacific Alliance, which promotes open regionalism and is opened to Non-South American counterparts, could impact Brazil’s regional integration agenda. In questioning the extent to which the Pacific Alliance conflicted with Brazilian interests, the researcher went beyond economic indicators. She considered cognitive aspects such as perceptions, speeches and proposals from foreign policy formulators in Brazil.
In her view, these aspects complement each other. They allowed her to identify Brazil’s foreign policy changes for the Pacific Alliance during the Rousseff’s first and second presidential period and Temer’s first government. These cognitive aspects enable her to ascertain continuity traits within these three governments. The continuity traits that she mapped lead her to conclude in her recent research that the Brazilian proposal for closer ties with the Pacific Alliance was prior to Chile’s coined proposal of “Convergence within Diversity.” Brazil’s initiative to engage with the Pacific Alliance was motivated by an interest to preserve its market in the PA countries vis à vis other economies. Fears of losing regional influence also underpinned Brazil’s approach towards the Pacific Alliance, notwithstanding that Mercosur continues to be the main foreign policy project for Brazil in South America. Continue reading
The Pacific Alliance wrapped up this unusual year with its customary presidential meeting between the 10th and the 12th of December 2020. Chile hosted the series of events that, in an unprecedented way, used digital technologies to connect entrepreneurial and government officials across the four members, including the Mexican President — Andrés López Obrador — and the interim Peruvian President — Francisco Sagasti — who attended by videoconferencing. The meeting expected for mid-2020 had to be postponed due to COVID-19 travelling bans and other health measures. The presidents’ gathering was preceded by a series of sessions from the CEAP, the Council of Ministers and the technical groups.
Thus, it seems timely to recap on the PA’s progress this year, the shortcomings of the mechanism, which is close to its 10th anniversary, and options to move ahead in the near future. These insights consider the declarations and action plans set during this meeting and this year’s achievements.
The COVID-19 Action Plan
The PA celebrates the establishment and implementation of a COVID-19 Action Plan tailored to mitigate the pandemic’s effects and adopt economic recovery measures in thirteen areas including innovation, trade facilitation, information exchange, trade promotion and productive linkages. Following its characteristic practical approach, rather than grand design measures towards long-term economic recovery, the PA’s measures have one of these three scopes.
First, a targeted approach to solving specific problems such as allowing for the use of copies of non-digital origin certificates for product exports. This measure intended to avoid people’s physical movement for the administrative procedure to access preferential tariff treatment under the Commercial Protocol. Moving forward in the area of trade facilitation, this unexpected year calls the members’ attention to speed up the digitalisation of administrative procedures through their single windows and their regional interoperability. Let’s remind ourselves that there is a long road ahead for the full interoperability and electronic transmission of import and export certifications and other documents between the four single windows.
Non-traditional services and knowledge-based services have taught positive lessons to PA governments and businesses alike during the 2020 pandemic. Notwithstanding the tremendous hit that traditional services — tourism, hospitality, passenger transport, and travel — have experienced due to the government measures to stop the spread of COVID-19.
Similarly to the 2008 GFC, knowledge-based services have proved their resilience and ability to adjust to the new environment during the pandemic.
Services sectors in the PA countries have been vital in supporting government measures on mobility restrictions, social distancing and the closure of non-essential shops. While telemedicine, IT services, and the use of big data have helped PA countries in the management of health and sanitary risks, telecommunication services have been the backbone to support work-from-home (WFM) not only for businesses but also for government institutions.
The dynamism and productivity of the knowledge-based services sectors not only continues but in some industries such as call centres and other BPO services increased during the COVID-19 lock-down. New business models have either emerged or sped up their evolution, thanks to the mandatory use of digital platforms to operate. An example of these changes is the increase in the microsourcing of education, professional, and personal training services through digitalisation, despite persistent challenges for Internet access and capabilities. Demand for audiovisual contents, animation services, entertainment and online gaming services, and digital services in support of e-commerce —shopping carts, online catalogues, electronic payment platforms etc — increased in the last five months.
In this regional context, the lack of a regional policy to promote knowledge-based services trade and investment has become more apparent.
The services sector is crying for a regional policy and strategies within the PA that could contribute to delivering results on the goals set in the Pacific Alliance 2030 Vision. Doubling and consolidating intra-regional services exports demand more robust and long-term regional strategies that are non-existent today.
Protocredits: Alianza del Pacífico
Early this month the presidents of the Pacific Alliance (PA) met in Lima, Peru for their regular yearly summit. The absence of the Mexican president overshadowed the XIV meeting and marked the first time in eight years that a president of the member states did not heed the call. A series of meetings by the ministerial councils and technical groups of the mechanism between 1 and 6 of July preceded the presidential gathering.
The outcomes of the presidential summit include a political Declaration in Support of the Multilateral Trading System that refers to the commitment of the members towards a rules-based system, their support to the World Trade Organization, and their rejection towards protectionist measures that have hindered global economic growth. Members also signed a Declaration for the Sustainable Management of Plastics stating their commitment to undertake specific initiatives to better management practices. Framework agreements for cooperation were concluded with Japan, the Eurasian Economic Commission and the Organization for the Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD).
As customary with the early harvest approach the Pacific Alliance has followed since its inception, the presidents and ministries highlighted the progress of the integration. The works underscored include multiple events hosted under the PA umbrella, such as macro business round-tables, joint commercial and investment promotion activities, the delivery of technical studies and several meetings for the exchange of experiences and good practices. The outcomes also report efforts to reach harmonisation at the normative, operative and technological level.
National agencies in the state members have also signed memoranda of understanding for future inter-institutional cooperation. One of them is an interesting Memorandum of Understanding Regarding Good Governmental Practices and the Development of Cooperation Mechanisms for the Prevention and Fight against Corruption in Public Procurement Systems within the Pacific Alliance. This memorandum represents a typical example of the problem-based approach PA members have followed from the start in the definition of their practical agenda. An approach that seems reasonable, albeit it brings to question the extent to which the PA regional agenda would be able to deliver meaningful results on these broad agenda growing not only in size but also complexity.
Following, the launch of the 2030 Vision in 2018, the presidents celebrated the conclusion of a work plan to pursue the aims envisioned for a more integrated; more global, more connected; more citizen-oriented PA. So far, the scope of the work plan is still unknown since the document is not public, and it is not clear what input from the civil society and other stakeholders was received for its construction.
Moving forward, the presidents instructed the working groups with a long list of mandates to undertake activities in areas such as trade facilitation, SMEs; public procurement; financial integration; trade, investment and tourism promotion; regulatory cooperation; global value chains and productive linkages; innovation; services and capital; tourism, labour, education; gender; and culture just to mention a few.
However, a close examination of these mandates make it evident a need for more stringent monitoring mechanisms of the activities undertaken to accomplish them. Although it is clear that some of these mandates are far-reaching and could not be achieved in the short-term, a few questions arise from the practice of presidential mandates.
Last week the Colombian President, Ivan Duque, stated his interest in establishing a new regional institution (perhaps an organisation) which he suggested to name Pro-South. This regional initiative if successful, would aim at coordinating public policies among South American countries, defend democratic values, including the separation of public powers, promote free market economies and the social agenda. He even suggested that it would replace UNASUR, a regional organisation founded in 2008 under the leadership of Brazilian and Venezuelan left-wing governments. UNASUR entered a significant crisis last year after Colombia’s announcement to withdraw from it and the voluntary membership suspension of five of its twelve members.
The move aims to politically punish UNASUR for its inability to take action against the current undemocratic regime run by Venezuela’s president, Nicolas Maduro.
Colombia’s president said to have discussed the initiative with the Chilean president, Sebastian Piñera and found a positive response. In this short note, we would like to examine the need for a new regional institution of this type and the implications that its establishment could have for the Pacific Alliance’s long-term consolidation.
The announcement of this new regional forum seems to be another perfect example of the “escape forward” rooted in Latin America’s regionalism. This term coins a practice of establishing new regional organisations or fora to pursue similar objectives to already existing ones when those established institutions face a crisis due to lack of political consensus or ideological differences within them. Rather than persevering at solving those political differences, states create new organisations to address similar topics while leaving the organisations that fail to deliver a particular result in a coma.
Building momentum for a new regional forum places Colombia’s president in the regional radar and reclaims the interest for a dialogue targeted at South America. It will be not only a test to its potential regional leadership but also a test to other regional institutions such as the Pacific Alliance, Mercosur and the Andean Community to stay relevant.
The objectives that this organisation are set to pursue are not different to the aims that the above institutions have been seeking for quite a while, questioning the real added value of Pro-South. Even CELAC, with a more extensive membership and regional coverage over Latin American affairs, seems to follow similar goals. Is Pro-South just a new political statement of the geopolitical swings within South America that has unfolded over the past few years?.
A consensus-based fora such as this one will always face the risk of stagnation that comes with political disagreements of the government members. Moreover, intergovernmental institutions such as the future Pro-South will claim a refocus of priorities by the government officials managing it. It is more than likely that governments running on national budget deficits will not have dedicated human resources for this new instance. On the contrary, the reassessment of priorities and national agendas could contribute to slow down the pace of progress in the existing institutions.
Photocredits: Photo by Gaelle Marcel on Unsplash
Sources: cancilleria.gov.co ; cnnespanol.cnn.com; blueradio.com
- Academic and Policy Research About the Pacific Alliance: A Snapshot
- In Conversation: A Collective Identity in the Pacific Alliance
- On Social Entrepreneurship and the Pacific Alliance: An Invitation
- Discussing the Relationship between Brazil and the Pacific Alliance
- Regionalism in Lock-Down? The Case of the Pacific Alliance
Hello my name is Ana Maria Palacio. I have a PhD from the University of Melbourne. This blog is about my thesis project, the Pacific Alliance.
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