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  Félix Peña

INTERNATIONAL TRADE RELATIONS NEWSLETTER
2018 | 2017 | 2016 | 2015 | 2014 | 2013 | 2012 | 2011 | 2010 | 2009
POLITICAL WILL, STRATEGIC IDEAS AND TECHNICAL CREATIVITY:
Their importance for building global and regional governance.

by Félix Peña
November 2010

English translation: Isabel Romero Carranza


 

In historical terms, what is currently happening in international relations poses an unprecedented challenge. It consists of the attempt, through dialogue and negotiations between nations with varying degrees of power and a diversity of interests, to find an agreement on the mechanisms, rules and conditions that will enable to achieve reasonable levels of regional and global governance.

The experience of the last centuries indicates that the shifts in world power such as the ones which are taking place today at a global scale and in certain regional spaces, have encouraged a tendency towards anarchy and not necessarily towards a sustainable order of prevailing peace.

The initiatives for the reform of the United Nations Security Council and the attempts to turn the G20 into an ambit where to encourage effective and legitimate decisions on the relevant issues of the current global economic agenda illustrate the core problem of governance that is being faced.
On the global plane, such problem consists of knowing which and how many countries can represent the critical mass of power required to ensure reasonable conditions for governance that is sustainable due to its effectiveness and legitimacy. The recently concluded G20 Seoul meeting has not contributed significant progress on this regard. The perspectives for the upcoming Cancun Summit on climate change are not encouraging either. Moreover, the Doha Round remains at a standstill.
There are three conditions that will be required to move forward in the joint creation of reasonable global governance. These are a strong political will focused on attaining ambitious goals, a feasible strategic idea and technical creativity in the definition of the methods to be used for its fulfillment.

These conditions are also required for building regional and interregional governance. This refers as much to the case of Mercosur itself as to its bi-regional negotiations with the European Union.


Traditionally it has been force more than reason what has set the rules for sustainable order in the relations between autonomous units of power at the international plane. At least these are the teachings of the history of mankind. This is the reason why what is currently happening in international relations is such a novelty, both at the global plane and in some of the regional spaces that have had a greater tradition of violent conflicts and wars.

In historical terms, what is currently happening poses an unprecedented challenge. It consists of an attempt, through dialogue and negotiations between nations with varying degrees of power and a diversity of interests, to find an agreement on the mechanisms, rules and conditions that will enable to achieve reasonable levels of regional and global governance. It implies favoring the method of a gradual transformation in the sense espoused by Edgar Morin (see his "Elogio de la Metamorfosis", in El País newspaper of January 17, 2010 on http://www.elpais.com/), that comes as a result of the same changes that are taking place at the multiple planes of the political, economical, social and cultural life of nations.

It is an unprecedented challenge precisely because the experience of the last centuries has shown that the shifts in world power, such as the ones that can be seen today at a global scale and in certain regional spaces, have encouraged a tendency towards anarchy and not necessarily towards a sustainable order of prevailing peace.

Therefore, the violent confrontations and diverse and innovative modalities of wars, which have sometimes lasted several years, have determined in the past the transition towards new periods of world order in which those demonstrating their superiority of power with facts prevailed.

The core issue that is currently being faced is illustrated by the initiatives of reform of the UN Security Council -addressed by President Obama during his recent visit to India- and by the attempts to turn the G20 into an ambit where at least some effective and legitimate decisions regarding the most relevant issues of the current global economic agenda can be encouraged. (On this topic see the articles by Robert Wade and Jacob Vestergaard, "Overhaul the G20 for the sake of the G172", published in the Financial Times on Friday, October 22, 2010, page 9; that by Pedro Solbes and Carlos Westendorp, "El G20 no es la ONU", in El País newspaper from Wednesday, November 10, 2010, page 29, and that by Xavier Vidal-Folch, also in El País, from Thursday, November 11, 2010, page15).

Essentially, at the global plane, the problem consists of knowing which and how many countries can represent the necessary critical mass of power required to ensure reasonable conditions for governance that is sustainable due to its effectiveness and legitimacy. The recently concluded G20 Seoul meeting has failed to contribute any significant progress regarding this matter.

Issues such as the dissimilarities in the approaches to face the effects of the current financial crisis in the monetary and exchange rate policies of the main countries, with their impact on world trade, are signaling the depth of the challenges that are currently being faced. Neither is it expected that any clear signals regarding the issue of climate change rise at the upcoming Cancun Summit. Moreover, the standstill of the Doha Round continues to endanger the very same multilateral system of world trade institutionalized through the World Trade Organization (WTO).

However recent, it seems far from the time when the signals originating in a great power, such as was the US in the last decades or such as the European Union aspired to be, could suffice to guide international order at the plane of collective security or, at the very least, at the level of global finance and world trade.

It has become increasingly evident that there are currently several relevant actors and that they do not necessarily share visions, objectives or interests. All signs indicate that for some time it will continue to be difficult to figure out the number to be appended to the letter "G". This if the aim is to have at least an informal but relevant mechanism for the promotion of collective decisions that penetrate reality on key issues of a growingly complex global agenda and that aspire to have legitimacy in the rest of the nations. (On this issue see the November 2008, February 2009 and January 2010 issues of this newsletter on www.felixpena.com.ar).

It is possible to imagine that the effectiveness and legitimacy of the decisions that result from an ambit such as the G20 -or of its eventual future replacements- would de enhanced if some of the countries that form part of it could speak in the name of their own regions. This seems not to be happening today, not even in the case of the EU in spite of the steps taken regarding its foreign policy with the enforcement of the Treaty of Lisbon. It even has serious difficulties to preserve its capacity to devise collective answers to the economic and financial problems being faced by some of its members. This situation was made evident by the discrepancies that rose during the French-German attempt to promote an adaptation of the Treaty of Lisbon to the new realities.

In the case of the South American space, even when Argentina and Brazil are members of the G20, it would be difficult to consider that they necessarily reflect the point of view of their region in such ambit. Neither would be the case if Brazil were made full member of the UN Security Council.

Three conditions are seemingly required in order to move forward in the concerted construction of reasonable governance, both global and regional. These would apply also if the aim is to build inter-regional spaces such as the ones that could eventually result from the re-launched negotiations between Mercosur and the EU, in the measure that it effectively aspires to become something more than just an attempt at improving mutual investment and trade flows.

These conditions are a firm political will aimed at achieving ambitious goals, a strategic idea that is feasible and technical creativity in the definition of the methods to be used for its attainment.

As for the political will, it is a necessary condition in the measure that it originates at the highest political level of each of the protagonists but it would seem not to suffice if it were limited to just a foundational moment. On the contrary, the idea is that it becomes sustainable in time. This means that it should translate into a political drive that flows steadily into the negotiating table where the actual decisions are made. This was what characterized the initial period of the reconstruction of Europe after the Second World War.

How to achieve this is one of the most relevant issues in the future of Mercosur. From there the importance of the signals coming from Brasilia in relation to the much needed institutional reform of the sub-regional process. Something similar might happen in the Mercosur-EU bi-regional negotiations after the momentum achieved at the Madrid Summit last May. If they were to be left in the hands of bureaucratic inertia, where the negotiating table was not permanently connected to the sources of political will at the highest level on both sides of the Atlantic, then the energy required might prove insufficient for the ambitious results that are apparently being sought after.

As for the second condition, the strategic idea driving the political thrust should be feasible. This implies that it needs to be based on the concrete interests of the different countries, on the reality of their relative power and, most particularly, on a correct assessment of the international context where the initiative is inserted, including its continuous adaptation to the changes that are taking place, sometimes at a very fast pace. For a long time, this was accomplished in the European construction on the basis of a brilliant vision molded after the idea inspired by Jean Monnet and which was nurtured by the political will of such personalities as Robert Schumann and Konrad Adenauer, among others.

The third condition is a good dose of technical creativity. The idea is not to follow previous models or text-book recommendations. On the contrary, it is about the creation of mechanisms and instruments adapted to the desired objectives and to the reality of the protagonists, and to the conditions that might result from the array of global and regional commitments previously assumed by them. Both in the case of the future construction of Mercosur as of the Mercosur-EU bi-regional partnership, said creativity should additionally take advantage of all the flexibilities that result from the ambiguous rules of the WTO and, particularly, of the GATT. (On this issue see the works referenced in the recommended reading section).

If fulfilled and combined together, the three abovementioned conditions would signify a qualitative leap both in Mercosur's experience and in the future development of an eventual bi-regional partnership with the EU. If this were the case, both processes would contribute towards the construction of global governance.

In the case of Mercosur it is important to retrieve its symbolic power as a political and strategic project, such as is expressed by Antonio José Ferreira Simôes in his very interesting article (see the reference in the recommended reading section).

However, even more fundamental still will be that the citizens of the member countries can see a clear link with their legitimate expectations for employment and wellbeing in the commitments that are assumed in the future and even in the effective application of those already adopted. This is not happening today and could be the origin of the evident signs of dissatisfaction that can be seen regarding their results.


Recommended Reading:


  • Amal, Mohamed; Rocha Freitag Filho, Alexandre, Internationalization of small- and medium sized enterprises: a multi case study", European Business Review, Vol. 22 Nº 6, 2010, en: http://www.emeraldinsight.com/.
  • Arenas, Gonzalo; Casanueva, Héctor (editores), "La Unión Europea, América Latina y el Caribe: 10 Años de Asociación Estratégica", CELARE-Universidad Pedro de Valdivia (UPV), Santiago de Chile 2010.
  • Bilal, Sanoussi; Ramdoo, Isabelle, "Which Way Forward in EPA Negotiations? Seeking Political leadership to address bottlenecks", Discussion Paper, European Centre for Development Policy Management -ECDPM-, n° 100, November 2010, en: http://www.ecdpm.org/dp100.
  • Cameron, Fraser, "The European Union as a Model for Regional Integration", Council on Foreign Relations, International Institutions and Global Governance Program, Working Paper, New York, September 2010, en: http://www.cfr.org/.
  • Diouf, El Hadji A., "Why the MFN clause should not be included in EPAs", ICTSD, Trade Negotiations Insights, Volume 9, Number 8, Geneva, October 2010, en http://ictsd.org/i/news/tni/87722/.
  • European Commission, "The Trade, Growth and World Affairs Communication", Memo 10, Brussels, November 2010, en http://trade.ec.europa.eu/ o click here.
  • European Commission, "Trade, Growth and World Affairs. Trade Policy as a Core Component of the EU'S 2020 Strategy", European Commission Trade -COM (2010) 612-, Brussels, November 2010, en: http://trade.ec.europa.eu/ o click here.
  • European Commission, "Trade as a Driver for Prosperity. Commission staff working document accompanying the Commission's Communication on "Trade, Growth and World Affairs"", European Commission Trade, Brussels, SEC(2010) 1269, November 2010, en: http://trade.ec.europa.eu/ o click here.
  • European Commission, "International Trade Report", Special Eurobarometer 357, Brussels, November 2010, en http://ec.europa.eu/.
  • Ferreira Simões, Antonio José, "Mercosul: Uma Visão Estratégica Às Vésperas de Seu 20° Aniversário", Novembro 2010, en: http://www.cebri.com.br/ o click here.
  • González, Felipe, "Mi idea de Europa", RBA, Barcelona 2010.
  • Khor, Martin, "Analysis of the Doha Negotiations and the Functioning of the WTO" (draft version), South Centre, Geneva, November 2009, en: http://www.southcentre.org/.
  • Leiva Lavalle, Patrício (editor), "Impactos de La crisis internacional sobre la economía chilena", UMC-KAS, Santiago de Chile 2010.
  • López, Gustavo M., "¿Vamos al grano. El rol del Estado en el comercio granarlo argentino", SEMA, Buenos Aires 2010.
  • Lui, Dan; Bilal, Sanoussi, "Contentious issues in the interim EPAs. Potential flexibility in the negotiations", ECDPM, Discussion Paper Nº 89, March 2009, en: http://www.ecdpm.org/ o click here.
  • Mace, Gordon (ed.), "Regionalism and the State. NAFTA and Foreign Policy Convergence", Ashgate, Aldershot, Hampshire-Burlington 2007.
  • Mairal, Pedro, "El año del desierto", Colección Púrpura, Ed. Salto de Página, Madrid 2010.
  • Maurer, Andres; Degain, Christophe, "Globalization and trade flows: what you see I not what you get!", World Trade Organization, Economic Research and Statistics Division, Staff Working Paper ERSD-2010-12, Geneva, June 2010, en: http://www.wto.org/english/res_e/reser_e/ersd201012_e.pdf.
  • Obote Ochieng, Cosmas Milton, "Questions Juridiques et Systémiques Dans les Accords de Partenariat Économiques: Quelle Voie Suivre à Présent?, ICTSD, Document Thématique N° 8, Genève, Octobre 2010, en: http://ictsd.org/ o click here.
  • Onguglo, Bonapas; Ito, Taisuque, "How to make EPAs WTO compatible? Reforming the rules on regional trade agreements", ECDPM, Discussion Paper Nº 40, July 2003, en: http://www.ecdpm.org/ o click here.
  • OECD-UNCTAD, "Fourth Report on G20 Investment Measures", OECD-UNCTAD, Paris, November 2010, en: http://www.oecd.org.
  • Oropeza García, Arturo (coordinador), "Latinoamérica frente al espejo de su integración 1810-2010", SER-UNAM, México 2010.
  • Pennetta, Piero, "I Rapporti dell'Unione Europea con le Organizzazioni Regionali dei Paesi in Vida di Sviluppo", Risi, Cosimo (Napoli 2010) ps. 173 a 236.
  • Risi, Cosimo (ed.), "L'Azione Esterna dell'Unione Europea dopo Lisbona", Editoriale Scientifica, Napoli 2010.
  • SELA, "Informe sobre el Proceso de Integración Regional, 2009-2010", Sistema Económico Latinoamericano (SP/CL/XXXVI.O/Di N° 10-10), Caracas, Octubre 2010, en: http://www.sela.org/ o click here.
  • SELA, "Avances Recientes en la Arquitectura Institucional de la Integración de América Latina y el Caribe", Sistema Económico Latinoamericano (SP/RRIIALC/DT N° 2-10), Caracas, Octubre 2010, en: http://www.sela.org/ o click here.
  • SELA, "Industrias Culturales y Creativas: Elementos para un Programa de Cooperación entre los países de América Latina y el Caribe", Sistema Económico Latinoamericano (SP/CL/XXXVI.O/Di Nº 22-10), Octubre 2010, en: http://www.sela.org/. o click here.
  • Sjauw-Koen-Fa, August, "Sustainability and security of the global food supply Chain", Rabobank Group, Utrecht, October 2010, en: http://www.rabobank.com/ o click here.
  • South Centre, "Article XXIV and RTAs: How Much Wiggle Room for Developing Countries", South Centre, Analytical Note (SC/AN/TDP/RTA), Geneva, December 2008, en: http://www.southcentre.org/.
  • South Centre, "Comparing the Special Safeguard Provisions (SSG) and the Special Safeguard Mechanism (SSM): Special and Differential Treatment for Whom?, South Centre, Analytical Note (SC/TDP/AN/AG/11), Geneva, November 2009, en: http://www.southcentre.org/.
  • South Centre, "EPAs and WTO Compatibility - A Development Perspective", South Centre, Analytical Note (SC/TDP/AN/EPA/27), Geneva, September 2010, en: http://www.southcentre.org.
  • Trifone, Luca, "G Quanto? Il Mondo pasa per la Cina. Anche l'Europa?, en Risi, Cosimo (Napoli 2010), ps. 237 a 260.
  • Vargas Llosas, Mario, "El sueño del celta", Alfaguara, Buenos Aires 2010.
  • Vox EU, "The future of EU trade policy", A Vox EU debate moderated by Richard Baldwin (Graduate Institute, Geneva; Vox EU Editor-in-Chief; Policy Director, CEPR), November 2010, en: http://trade.ec.europa.eu/ o click here.
  • WTO, "Report on G20 Trade Measures (May 2010 to October 2010), WTO, Geneva, November 2010, en: http://www.wto.org.


Félix Peña Director of the Institute of International Trade at the ICBC Foundation. Director of the Masters Degree in International Trade Relations at Tres de Febrero National University (UNTREF). Member of the Executive Committee of the Argentine Council for International Relations (CARI). Member of the Evian Group Brains Trust. More information.

http://www.felixpena.com.ar | info@felixpena.com.ar


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