The Pacific Alliance Recent Moves in Uncertain Times

The Pacific Alliance reached its 7th anniversary this year with an active agenda but uncertain times lie ahead. With further presidential changes in Colombia in August and Mexico in December 2018, some concerns arise regarding how these presidential moves will affect the progress in the internal agenda of the PA. Securing presidential support is particularly relevant for the PA considering its intergovernmental model where presidents have had the major leading role since inception.

In the case of Colombia the election of Ivan Duque, the centre-right candidate, may represent less of a concern to the continuity of the PA. This is because the PA’s principles and ideas align with his views on investment promotion and economic development. The mechanism enjoys strong support from the business community in Colombia which has played a central role in its electoral campaign and its economic strategy. Duque’s potential support to the PA contrasts with his recent declarations that confirm his interest to withdraw from UNASUR.

In the case of Mexico, presidential changes represent a broader concern for the more unpredictable foreign policy line that Andres Manuel López Obrador (AMLO) might follow for the coming six years. AMLO was able to secure a sweeping victory on the 1st of July with a slogan that states: ‘the best foreign policy is domestic policy’. It is not entirely clear what he means with this narrative other than he will prioritise dealing with domestic affairs such as corruption and drug trafficking-related crimes.  AMLO’s rhetoric until late stages of the presidential campaign has relegated foreign affairs to the side although setting a clearer foreign policy pathway will be unavoidable. In any case, the PA might be off to a good start as the elected president will join the outgoing president Enrique Peña Nieto during the Presidential Summit on the 24th of July.

It seems that preliminary introductions of elected presidents to the PA is an already established practice amongst PA presidents to ensure continuity and early commitment of forthcoming presidents. Despite some protectionist rhetoric, AMLO might find it appealing to maintain close ties with its Latin American counterparts and encourage Latin American integration as has been the case with other Latin American nationalist governments over the last decade. Keeping his support with the PA may also provide some symbolic political leeway to continue the renegotiation of NAFTA for which AMLO has expressed support after a prolonged silence during the campaign.

In the meantime, some progress has taken place ahead of the XIII Presidential Summit as government officials are urged to deliver results. These works include the negotiation and signing of a mutual recognition agreement of the parties’ national programs for authorised economic operators (AEO). The deal aims to reduce the costs of bilateral trade and speed up the processing times for customs procedures. PA members are holding conversations with customs authorities in Uruguay to negotiate a similar deal in the future.

Regarding relations with third states, Ecuador expressed its willingness to build closer ties with the PA and stated an interest to become an associate member. A reminder that PA members are undertaking negotiations with Australia, Canada, Singapore and New Zealand to become associate states. The fifth round of talks with the four candidates was held in Mexico on the 8th to the 13th of July. United Arab Emirates (UAE), Serbia and Belarus have received the observer status in the PA which currently has 55 observers.

As we write, technical groups, numerous government officials and the CEAP business council are meeting from the 21st to the 24th of July to set the agenda for the next year. Next week we will talk about the results of these meetings and what is coming for the PA.

It will be interesting to see the role that Mexico will play for the next year after Peru receives the pro-tempore presidency of the mechanism during this summit!

Sources: Nueva Sociedad, Gulfnews, Global Americans, The Economist,