XIV Presidential Summit of the Pacific Alliance: Main Takeaways

Protocredits: Alianza del Pacífico

Early this month the presidents of the Pacific Alliance (PA) met in Lima, Peru for their regular yearly summit. The absence of the Mexican president overshadowed the XIV meeting and marked the first time in eight years that a president of the member states did not heed the call. A series of meetings by the ministerial councils and technical groups of the mechanism between 1 and 6 of July preceded the presidential gathering.

The outcomes of the presidential summit include a political Declaration in Support of the Multilateral Trading System that refers to the commitment of the members towards a rules-based system, their support to the World Trade Organization, and their rejection towards protectionist measures that have hindered global economic growth. Members also signed a Declaration for the Sustainable Management of Plastics stating their commitment to undertake specific initiatives to better management practices. Framework agreements for cooperation were concluded with Japan, the Eurasian Economic Commission and the Organization for the Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD).

As customary with the early harvest approach the Pacific Alliance has followed since its inception, the presidents and ministries highlighted the progress of the integration. The works underscored include multiple events hosted under the PA umbrella, such as macro business round-tables, joint commercial and investment promotion activities, the delivery of technical studies and several meetings for the exchange of experiences and good practices. The outcomes also report efforts to reach harmonisation at the normative, operative and technological level.

National agencies in the state members have also signed memoranda of understanding for future inter-institutional cooperation. One of them is an interesting Memorandum of Understanding Regarding Good Governmental Practices and the Development of Cooperation Mechanisms for the Prevention and Fight against Corruption in Public Procurement Systems within the Pacific Alliance. This memorandum represents a typical example of the problem-based approach PA members have followed from the start in the definition of their practical agenda. An approach that seems reasonable, albeit it brings to question the extent to which the PA regional agenda would be able to deliver meaningful results on these broad agenda growing not only in size but also complexity.

Following, the launch of the 2030 Vision in 2018, the presidents celebrated the conclusion of a work plan to pursue the aims envisioned for a more integrated; more global, more connected; more citizen-oriented PA. So far, the scope of the work plan is still unknown since the document is not public, and it is not clear what input from the civil society and other stakeholders was received for its construction.

Moving forward, the presidents instructed the working groups with a long list of mandates to undertake activities in areas such as trade facilitation, SMEs; public procurement; financial integration; trade, investment and tourism promotion; regulatory cooperation; global value chains and productive linkages; innovation; services and capital; tourism, labour, education; gender; and culture just to mention a few.

However, a close examination of these mandates make it evident a need for more stringent monitoring mechanisms of the activities undertaken to accomplish them. Although it is clear that some of these mandates are far-reaching and could not be achieved in the short-term, a few questions arise from the practice of presidential mandates.

Some areas (eg health and access to affordable medicines) reached momentum and made their way into a presidential declaration, but from there onwards have been forgotten. Does it mean that no progress has been made in these areas? Does it mean the members have given up on the pursuit of regional action on these topics?

Additionally, some mandates keep reappearing in subsequent declarations with almost the same scope. Does it mean that no progress has been made in those fields (eg gender) since the action was first instructed by the presidents? Moreover, some mandates in key areas (eg services and labour) seem modest in scope when compared to the goal of liberalisation and the 2030 Vision. If the Pacific Alliance falls short in establishing better follow-up procedures and transparency mechanisms that give better account on the activities to implement the mandates, it risks losing credibility.

Perhaps, it is time that along with the multiplicity of topics addressed in the presidential declarations, the institutional dimension receives the relevance it deserves. Presidents should provide leadership and guidance on the institutional aspects that the Pacific Alliance needs to strengthen to be able to adequately support the other dimensions of the integration (commercial, financial, cooperation).