Pacific Alliance Presidential Moves: Safe for Now?

The Pacific Alliance closes the year with a busy last week. A couple of significant events took place and deserve some consideration. First the meeting of the technical groups in Bogota from the 11 to the 13 December. Second the presidential election in Chile.

The meeting in Bogota gathered more than a dozen technical groups and subcommittees on issues regarding tourism, gender, institutional matters, digital agenda, education,  regulatory cooperation, innovation, external relations and SMEs. Around 160 government officials from the four countries attended the meeting to discuss progress in the different areas and the action plans for 2018.

In addition, the presidential election in Chile gave a victory to Sebastian Piñera  on 19 December.  This is good news for the Pacific Alliance because it provides some stability and certainty on the continuity of the ‘new’ Chilean government with the original commitments to regionalism through the mechanism. Piñera is the former Chilean president from  2010 to 2014.  He participated in the inception and early developments of the Pacific Alliance and will be in this role from 2018 to 2022.

However, with a regionalist project that is highly dependent upon presidential enthusiasms, that continuity is not guaranteed from the other members. Particularly, Colombia and Mexico will be electing new presidents in 2018. With new actors and domestic political agendas at the forefront of the presidential campaigns it is not clear what views and positions these new governments will take in regard to the Pacific Alliance. It is uncertain whether the political enthusiasm will remain to support its progress in the medium term. Colombia’s presidential pool for the first round of voting, comprises around 10 candidates from ex-guerrilla leaders to right wing candidates to coalition of parties’ candidates. A first round of voting will take place in May 2018. So far it is not clear what views the candidates hold regarding the Pacific Alliance although some of the left wing candidates present strong and opposing views (sometimes uninformed) against free trade. As expected the results of the polls are inconclusive at this stage with ‘favorites’ holding less than 20 per cent of the potential votes.

In Mexico, elections not only for president, but also for members of the federal congress and local leaders will take place in July 2018. There are 24 presidential candidates registered with the electoral agency which means that the list will be further distilled within the next three months. At this stage a left wing candidate, ex major of one of the states, and the traditional parties’ candidates for the PRI (Institutional Revolutionary Party) and the PAN (National Action Party)  lead voting polls, followed by some independent candidates.

 It is expected that most of the attention of presidential candidates regarding Mexico’s foreign policy will move around the NAFTA renegotiation process which somehow will shield the Pacific Alliance. However, the mechanism is not particularly controversial and on the contrary could be seen as providing Mexico international leverage against the uncertain future of the NAFTA renegotiation. In addition the Pacific Alliance means a strategic move for Mexico to try to reinstate its influence in the Latin American region.

The Pacific Alliance is safe for now. Let’s hope that reasonable progress can me made during the first semester of 2018 with the domestic election campaigns and later, with the expected changes in the high and middle management level in the country members. These transitions could disrupt the pace in the Pacific Alliance agenda for 2018 and bring uncertainty to its  near future.

sources: and media sources