What does the Pacific Alliance Mean by Deep Integration?

A question that has puzzled me for quite a while is what  the Pacific Alliance and its members really mean with deep integration.

Photocredits: Kaisorn/FreeDigitalPhotos.net
This is not a minor issue considering that deep integration is one of the main goals of the Pacific Alliance. In the future deep integration and what it entails could serve as a proxy for the success or failure of the Pacific Alliance, thus more clarity on its meaning is necessary.

I have addressed the question and tried to solve the query through different sources.

First, the text of the Framework Agreement accompanying the concept could give an indication as to the meaning and scope of the deep integration goal. Article three prescribes three goals for the PA. The first one is building an area of deep integration to advance progressively towards the free movement of good, services, capital and persons. The qualification provided is that the area of deep integration will be built in a consensual and participative way. The programmatic reference to ‘advance’ in the free movement of factors has omitted the reference to what in the common typology of Balassa refers to the common market.

Second, traditional approaches to defining the concept refer to deep integration opposing it to the concept of shallow integration. The concept was first used by Robert Laurence. It refers to a kind of commercial agreement that deals with behind the border issues. They include disciplines such as services, factors movement, harmonisation of regulatory regimes, environmental standards, and in general domestic policies that affect international competitiveness. In contrast, shallow agreements refer to agreements that deal with border issues preventing trade between two parties. The concept has been used in the literature to refer to NAFTA (North American Free Trade Agreement). Commercial agreements north-south have been also characterised as deep integration agreements, while  south-south agreements have commonly been considered shallow agreements in some academic literature. In this context, the concept seems to have a commercial connotation.

From the interaction of these several sources more questions than answers come to my mind at this point: Do they want to achieve a common market represented in the free movement of factors and is that what they mean by deep integration? Do they only want to tackle behind the border barriers that hinder free trade but without committing with establishing a common market and that is why they chose the word ‘advance’ rather than create or establish? Thus, would the PA be only a mechanism of trade and investment facilitation?

Do social and identity goals have a role to play in the concept of deep integration through citizen engagement and participation in the process and is that why they refer to the construction of the deep integration area in a consensual and participative manner? This interpretation does stretch the text and context in which the concept is used in the Framework Agreement.

Some academic views point to the lack of conceptualisation in the goals of the PA and the lack of definition of the degree of depth in the PA integration. However, the issue seems to be an actual intended feature, perhaps a wanted omission in response to the context of Latin American regionalism where the assessment of the failure to achieve common markets has commonly been used to support the failure of other integration projects in the region (MERCOSUR, Andean Community and Central American Common Market).

I look forward to your comments and insights on this preliminary thoughts on the topic.

Sources: Framework Agreement of the Pacific Alliance; Robert Z Lawrence, Regionalism, Multilateralism, and Deeper Integration; Mikio Kuwayama, ‘Open Regionalism in Asia Pacific and Latin America: a Survey of the Literature’ (ECLAC, Serie Comercio Internacional N 4, ECLAC, December 1999) 32;  German Prieto and Ricardo Betancourt, ‘Between Sovereignty Liberalism and Innovation: Conceptual Framework for the Analysis of the Pacific Alliance’ in Eduardo Pastrana and Hubert Gehring (eds), Pacific Alliance: Myths and Realities, (Universidad Santiago de Cali, 2014) 75-13; Edgar Vieira Posada, ‘The Pacific Alliance, Deep Integration to What Extent? in Isabel Rodríguez Aranda, Edgar Viera Posada, Prospects and Oportunities of the Pacific Alliance (CESA, 2015). [own translation].