Chile's new foreign minister Heraldo Muñoz ratified his country's membership of the Pacific Alliance, a much questioned group by other regional organizations such as the Venezuelan inspired ALBA and even Mercosur led by Brazil, and suggested that Mercosur and the Pacific Alliance could consider integration. Chile is currently an associate member of Mercosur.
In a column published in the Spanish newspaper El País, under the heading of The new Latin-American policy of Chile, Muñoz underlined that the Chilean foreign policy will not be tainted of ideology, but rather to advance pragmatically towards a more integrated region and with its own identity.
Muñoz said that the priority of the new government of President Michelle Bachelet will be the region, and more specifically South America, and also referred to the Pacific Alliance (created during the period of conservative president Sebastián Piñera). The Chilean government values the Pacific Alliance as an economic integration scheme and a trade platform of collective projection towards the Asia-Pacific region.
However Muñoz rejected any interpretation of the Pacific Alliance as an excluding ideological or antagonist block with other integration projects. As a matter of example we should discuss the possibility of materializing a convergence of the Pacific Alliance with Mercosur, the Chilean official wrote.
The comment seemed to the addressed to countries from the Bolivarian ALBA group such as Venezuela and Bolivia which among others have criticized the Pacific Alliance arguing that its members have a greater affinity with White House policies. The fact is that the Alliance brings together some of the most successful economies from the region and with better growth projection in South America.
Mercosur on the other hand which has been in discussions with the European Union for an ambitious cooperation and trade agreement has yet been unable to reach such an objective, while the Pacific Alliance has already addressed the challenge, since all of its members (Chile, Peru, Colombia and Mexico) already have such unilateral trade accords with Brussels.
Mercosur hopefully this month will present its European counterpart a much delayed proposal of tariff reductions for goods and services on which to elaborate the basis for the trade agreements. Brazil, Uruguay and Paraguay have agreed on a very ambitious proposal while Argentina has been dragging its feet. Venezuela only recently joined Mercosur and is not part of the current negotiations with the EU.
Muñoz argues that the concept applied by the European Union of 'different speeds' should be adopted in such a way that those countries that can and are in condition to do so, effectively advance at a faster pace than the rest involved in the integration process.
Convergence in diversity is the policy Chile will attempt to promote in Latin America. It's an option that combines realism with political commitment in advancing to a more integrated and autonomous region concludes Minister Muñoz, speaking for President Michelle Bachelet.
The Pacific Alliance is more pro business and private sector; favors foreign investment; promotes less government intervention in economic affairs and low tariffs to boost trade. All of which seems to be contrary to what Mercosur has been doing so in recent years despite its ambitious original 1991 charter, closer to the Pacific Alliance performance.