Perspectives of the Pacific Alliance regarding other regionalization processes in Latin America

With the arrival of the Pacific Alliance on the board of Latin American integration in 2011, the balance of power in the region were altered. Since then, it is increasingly feasible the hypothesis that the Pacific Alliance is a valuable tool instrumented by its members to exercise  soft balancing on Mercosur, especially its regional power Brazil. This hypothesis is strengthened not only by the notorious ideological differences of the countries of each block, but also by the increasing global geopolitical dispute between the US and China: while the Pacific Alliance -with supporters Washington Consensus- represents for United States (and the G7) a mechanism for linking with Central and South America, Mercosur -with governments ideologically closer to Beijing Consensus- operates as China (and BRICS) access to the Americas. But the prospects of the Pacific Alliance facing other schemes in the region, are explained only by external factors? Is there no sovereignty in these projects? Where are the aspirations of Latin American unity? What are the prospects for the Pacific Alliance facing the Mercosur, Unasur and the Andean Community, which are undoubtedly the most important integration schemes in the region?

While many might assume that Mercosur is in crisis because to recent political tensions in Venezuela, Argentina and Brazil, actually this block is now celebrating 25 years of existence with greater willingness to further consolidate and expand its integration project: the best evidence is the recent addition of Bolivia to the group (Decision No. 13/15). And, although it could be ending the cycle of leftist governments in Latin America, Mercosur has been shielded from subnational partisan changes with State policies established by its decision-making bodies. In this regard, the Consejo del Mercado Común (CMC) has devised, during its 49th Regular Meeting (Asuncion, December 2015), the need to give new impetus to negotiations with third countries and groups of countries. Of all of them, the priority group of countries for Mercosur is the Unasur.

In order to optimize resources, avoid overlapping tasks and strengthen efforts, the CMC has instructed to develop an agenda of complementation and articulation between Unasur and Mercosur (Decision No. 32/14): if Bolivia has joined the Mercosur and Ecuador hosts the offices of Unasur, everything indicates that these two mechanisms of regionalization will end not only complementing but merging. However what will happen to Chile, Peru and Colombia which are important partners of Unasur, but not aspire to become full members of Mercosur? For them becomes strategic Andean Community.

The Andean Community was founded in 1969 -precisely by Chile, Peru, Colombia along with Bolivia- in order to establish favorable conditions for the participation of its members in the regional macro-project of the Asociación Latinoamericana de Libre Comercio. After After the departure of Chile in 1976 and the serious economic difficulties experienced during the 80’s, the Andean Community was relaunched. Although the Protocolo de Trujillo of 1996 gave new hope to the Andean integration, recent years have been disappointing for the group due to the departure of Venezuela from the Andean Community in 2006 and the because the remaining four partners have been very distant in political-ideological terms.

When so little impact on international relations and cost around US$ 5,500 million per year, many question the validity of the Andean Community and propose its extinction. What to do with this organization? One possibility would disarticulate, a fact that should only be formalized because, in practical terms, Ecuador and Bolivia have approached the Mercosur, while Peru and Colombia are driven the Pacific Alliance. However, just as it is seeking the convergence Mercosur-Unasur, the Pacific Alliance could rescue all human capital, infrastructure and expertise of the Andean Community, because: 1) organizational framework of the Andean Community is much more complex than the currently existing in the Pacific Alliance, so that the latter would not have to regress institutionally but could assist in their progress; 2) Lima and Bogota are hosting two important organs of the Andean Community (Secretariat and Parliament, respectively), whose infrastructure could be reused for the work of the Pacific Alliance; 3) contributions from Colombia and Peru are the largest of the Andean Community (each contributes US$ 2,200 million per year),  reason for which these two countries are those with the greatest power to decide on the future of the Andean group. Certainly the integration model followed by the Pacific Alliance is a simple-intergovernmental type, but if it really aspires to a “deep integration” must equip itself with greater administrative infrastructure and a more robust institutions.

Finally, it is plausible that the Andean Community (Bolivia and Ecuador even without) finished contributing to the Pacific Alliance, but this does not stoke competition with Mercosur? Perhaps in the short term. However, in the future it will be technically easier to converge to two schemes in a broader one, Comunidad de Estados Latinoamericanos y Caribeños (CELAC). If realized this way, CELAC would provide two geopolitical façades: an Atlantic-African (Mercosur) and other Asian-Pacific (Pacific Alliance). If so, the Pacific Alliance would fulfill its goal of “becoming a platform of political articulation, economic and trade integration, and projection into the world, with emphasis on the Asia-Pacific region” and, at the same time, would contribute immeasurably  to the Latin American unity.