Between Rhetoric and Reality: In Search of the Fifth Member

Save energy Chile _domdeen

Photocredits: domdeen/
President Bachelet has recently expressed particular interest in Argentina becoming a PA member, and as Pro Tempore president of the integration mechanism will devote efforts to this end. Let’s remind us that since the second semester of 2016 Argentina officially became an observer of the mechanism.

However, going beyond the political rhetoric of presidents we need to consider the long-term economic and institutional implications for the PA in this scenario.

Despite efforts by the Argentinian president to signal a change in foreign commercial policy, there is a lot of uncertainty as to whether this is a move reflecting a shift in state policy or rather a short term policy of Macri’s government. Uncertainty on the continuity of this policy after the long lasting protectionist approach of the Kirchner era would not contribute to ensuring stability in this front for the PA. The PA is an integration model that has clearly characterised itself by the alignment of its members regarding commercial foreign policy and development approaches. Changes in unconsolidated state policies by a newcomer such as Argentina could not only slow down the pace but lead to stagnation, as seen in previous integration experiences.

On the other side of the table, Argentina should and will probably focus on putting things in order within Mercosur after Venezuela’s suspension from the integration scheme. This situation triggered a most recent institutional crisis for Mercosur and Argentina’s delegation of the pro-tempore presidency. Joining the PA as a full member would only represent another example of ‘the scape forward approach’ that Latin American governments and states often take towards regional integration.

Finally, I am not sure that with the short length of pro-tempore presidencies within the PA Chile should be investing efforts into extending the number of countries in the PA rather than setting and implementing a work agenda that could strengthen the economic ties and other integration areas within the already existing members. People might say these are not excluding issues but they de facto could be when limited human resources are devoted to performing multiple tasks like is the case in the PA. There is a need to prioritise efforts and areas of work.

The issue could be just part of the rhetoric accompanying the recent presidential visit of Bachelet to Macri, but places on the stage a major missing factor: a clear policy line and criteria regarding new members accession/entry to the PA.

Is the PA ready for the newcomers?

I look forward to your comments on this issue.