The New Minilateralism in Regional Economic Governance: Cross-Regionalism and the Pacific Alliance

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.

Unlike the Pacific Alliance, cross-regionalism is not a formal regional organisation but a foreign economic policy practice or strategy that can be defined as the participation of a country in multiple, simultaneous small-scale bilateral trade agreements, and the combination thereof, with countries belonging to different regions of the world. It refers to the rationale behind the rush of countries like Chile and Peru, and more recently, Colombia and Ecuador, to sign several parallel bilateral trade agreements with far-flung partners. It will be shown that cross-regionalism features several of the main characteristics of the new minilateralism, especially its disaggregated or piecemeal approach to cooperation, its heterogeneity or hybridity of forms, and its geographical indifference.

In the next section, the case is made that the Pacific Alliance, far from representing a return to the governance practices of the new regionalism as some authors have suggested (e.g., Briceño-Ruiz 2014: 3), significantly diverges in at least four critical ways from the regional organisations of the new regionalism, and has thereby come to constitute a paradigmatic example of minilateral a brief discussion of developments that may indicate that the tandem cross-regionalism/Pacific Alliance is on its way to becoming a dominant modality of economic governance in South America.

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Authors: Jorge Garzón and Detlef Nolte
Book: Handbook of South American Governance, Pia Riggirozzi, Christopher Wylde (eds) (p 173-190)
Full document: not available (Routledge, 2018)