South America has not remained untouched by [the] global trend towards the propagation of minilateral forms of cooperation. As is shown in this chapter, several states in the region are actively resorting to different types of minilateral instruments in pursuit of traditional as well as new foreign economic policy goals. Two of these minilateral instruments have proved particularly disruptive of the patterns of regional economic governance laid down in the 1990s.
One of these instruments is ‘cross-regionalism’, which refers to the new practice or strategy of negotiating multiple parallel bilateral trade agreements with partners belonging to different regions. The other minilateral instrument is the Pacific Alliance (PA), a formal regional organisation established by Chile, Colombia, Mexico and Peru in 2012. These two types of minilateral institutions are worth closer examination not only because they represent a significant deviation from traditional governance practices, but also because their appearance is profoundly transforming South America’s economic governance architecture.
The following paper will explain the phenomenon of ‘cross-regionalism’, whose spread throughout the South American region and, indeed, whose very nature has remained poorly understood and a source of great controversy.