Of Blind People, Elephants and the Pacific Alliance Integration: Institutionalist Account and Proposals For Change

The Pacific Alliance (PA) presents itself as a sui generis ‘mechanism for regional integration’ comprising Chile, Colombia, Mexico and Peru. In this thesis, I examine the main institutional features of the PA, the factors that explain these institutional choices and to what extent its institutional framework is suitable to support the objectives of the PA in the long-term. The scope of the thesis is threefold: descriptive, explanatory and normative.

I take an interdisciplinary and eclectic approach to study the institutional dimension of the PA. I base my analysis on insights from new institutionalisms — constructivist and rational institutionalisms — while following a legal orientation when reading and applying new institutionalisms. I also employ international institutional law to assess the international legal status of the PA. At the methodological level, the thesis uses qualitative methods — doctrinal and empirical analysis — to address the research questions.

The core argument I develop in this thesis is that rational factors, such as cooperation problems and characteristics of the PA members in the aggregate, and ideational factors explain the PA’s institutional design. External institutional environments also contribute to explain PA’s institutional architecture. Institutional entrepreneurs have carefully crafted organisational and task-related decentralisation, the scope of issues covered, the rules for control, and the array of adjustability devices in its institutional rules. PA’s institutional design is also the result of the revisited neoliberal program amplified at the regional level through the open regionalism and deep integration programs and the frames of flexibility and pragmatism.

I contest, based on empirical evidence, claims about the sui generis nature of the PA’s institutional model of economic regionalism. I also challenge established views about its non-political and non-ideological foundations.

I demonstrate that the PA represents an informal intergovernmental institution (IIG). The PA is not an international organisation invested with international and domestic legal personality. Organisational structures in the PA follow a spectrum of formal and informal arrangements. These structures have, in many instances, responded to what I call demand-based or problem-based approaches in their establishment. Growth and specialisation of organisational structures take place through informal means, which evidences the effects of the ideas of flexibility and pragmatism that frame the PA and its regional integration process.

The thesis shows that the PA relies heavily on soft-law reinforcing its political basis. Mandatory commitments or hard-law approaches refer primarily to the construction of a free trade area as of today while soft-law is predominant in several areas that comprise its large economic and non-economic cooperation pillar.

I maintain that the PA’s current institutional framework does not equip it to respond to the needs for policy coordination and harmonisation, and the development of other regional public goods associated with the goals of its economic regionalism project.

From a normative stand, as the PA evolves it will require institutional adjustments to deal with the tasks of (i) information production and management; (ii) decision making; (iii) administration; (iv) monitoring; (v) dispute resolution; and (vi) enforcement/punishment. The PA needs to introduce elements of centralisation and delegation, such as a Secretariat, to perform some of these tasks.

This thesis has significance for policy entrepreneurs, government officials and academics by mapping and explaining the institutional approach that PA architects have taken, how it has evolved, and the benefits and shortcomings arising from it. The thesis is a tool to inform policy decisions regarding institutional changes to the PA. I test the explanatory power of rational and constructivist approaches from new institutionalisms, proposing an eclectic analytical framework to grasp better the PA’s institutions at the empirical level. With the restrictions of a case study for potential theory building, the thesis also speaks to the institutionalist literature. It makes incremental developments that extend rational institutionalism insights to explain some of the PA’s treaty provisions.

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Author: Ana María Palacio Valencia
Full Document: 2020, Palacio-Valencia, Of Blind People, Elephants and the Pacific Alliance Integration: Institutionalist Account and Proposals For Change