In times of marked uncertainties and of frequent turbulences, such as
those we are unquestionably experiencing today, it is usual for societies
to expect that their leaders provide guidance on how to overcome critical
situations and on how to build a future that today seems uncertain and,
sometimes, even worse than the present. When citizens fail to perceive
such leadership they become outraged or even rebellious.
At the international level, these social expectations focus on the summits
that take place periodically with the participation of the political leaders
of a region or an interregional space (or even multiregional, such as
the case of the G290). The frequency with which the different summits
take place and their sometimes unclear results may account for certain
deterioration of their image and credibility before the public opinion.
In spite of this, they constitute meetings at the highest political level
where the exercise of leadership is expected, if possible a collective
one, aimed at overcoming eventual crises by indicating possible ways in
which through joint action a group of nations may attain the goals of
governance (peace and political stability) and a sustainable economic
and social development (welfare, equality and employment).
At the interregional level, the Latin American political leaders when
meeting with their European counterparts -and in the midst of the current
economic and financial crisis that is especially affecting Europe- will
soon have the opportunity to appreciate and demonstrate that the diplomacy
of the summits still has the necessary strength to produce effective results
or, at least, media ones. This will be the case of the Summit of the Ibero-
American regional space that will take place in Cadiz, Spain, on November
16th and 17th (http://segib.org/),
and that of the Euro-Latin American interregional space, that will be
held in Santiago de Chile on January 26th and 27th, 2013. (http://www.minrel.gob.cl/).
A significant number of the political leaders of the regional spaces
that have experienced deep transformations since the moment when the system
of summits was launched -the first Ibero-American Summit took place in
1991 in Guadalajara, Mexico, and the first LAC-EU Summit was held in Rio
de Janeiro in 1999- are expected to meet at the highest political level
on these occasions.
We are referring to two different spaces but which share, on the one
hand, the participation of a significant group of Latin American countries
-in terms of economic dimension, relative power and population- and, on
the other hand, of two European countries -Spain and Portugal- with strong
ties and interests in Latin America and with the recurring aspiration
of voicing the region's interests before other EU countries.
Nowadays, the European space has become enlarged with the addition of
new member countries, especially those of Eastern Europe. It is also a
regional space which, during the last four years, has experienced the
unequal effects of a deep economic and financial crisis that has also
had systemic connotations in the local political life of several of the
countries that form part of the European Union. Today, the very same idea
of integration is being questioned. The crisis has translated into a heated
debate on the methods to be used to continue and eventually deepen the
At the same time, the Latin American space has also experienced deep
transformations during the last two decades. These can be seen at a local
level in the respective political and economic systems where, even when
democracy seems more consolidated, the expectations regarding the economic
and social development of each country and the options for their insertion
in the world economy show differences in many cases. There are also different
approaches as to how to face the respective strategies for Latin American
integration. There has been some progress in the construction of regional
institutional frameworks, such as the cases of the Community of Latin
American and Caribbean States (CELAC) and the Union of South American
Nations (UNASUR) in the South American regional space (http://www.unasursg.org/).
At the same time, in terms of the deep integration processes, there is
a more diverse patchwork with a network of preferential trade agreements
within the framework of the Latin American Integration Association (ALADI)
and sub-regional agreements with different degrees of compliance and effectiveness
-such the cases of Mercosur (http://www.mercosur.int/),
the Andean Community (http://www.comunidadandina.org/),
the Central American Integration System (SICA) (http://www.sica.int/),
the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) (http://www.caricom.org/), and of the
recently announced Pacific Alliance. We could also add the Bolivarian
Alliance (ALBA) (http://www.alianzabolivariana.org)
and the Latin American Economic System (SELA) (http://www.sela.org/).
However, in this opportunity, the possibility of manifesting the strength
and efficacy of the respective systems of interregional summits will depend
greatly on the interest expressed by the political leaders from Spain
and Portugal, on one case, and of the European Union, on the other, in
reaffirming the idea and updating the goals of the corresponding interregional
association (existential dimension) and in renewing the modalities of
joint work (methodological dimension).
This seems to be so given that, unlike during the two decades elapsed
since the beginning of the interregional summit system, today many of
the relevant players of the global economic competition are interested
in building closer relations with Latin American countries. The growing
and active presence of Asia -China in particular- in Latin America is
evidence of a deep structural change in the international insertion of
each one of the Latin American countries. (On this regard, see the recent
book by Rosales and Kuwayama listed as recommended reading of this newsletter).
Today these countries have multiple options regarding their international
insertion strategies, even when there is also an evident interest in ensuring
the right counterbalance to each one of the existing options.
The abovementioned change is also expressed through various trends that
anticipate the future and which go beyond trade, made manifest through
direct investments -particularly of Chinese origin- in several sectors
such as hydrocarbons, energy, food, construction, and finance and automotive,
among others. In this last sector, the long term trend is beginning to
show in investments aimed at installing production facilities, especially
in Brazil due to its relative weight, such as the case of the company
Chery. These are facts that anticipate a trend that would seem to be strong
and irreversible and that might be signaling -at least in South America-
the end of a long era of direct investments originating mainly in Europe
and the U.S.
Maybe for the first time since the start of the interregional summits
the countries of Latin America are beginning to show a more assertive
attitude and seek to promote multiple options in the range of their international
economic relations. Also for the first time, several countries of the
European region are undergoing deep crises and probably have more immediate
priorities than those related with renewing or deepening their alliances
with other regions. On the other hand, the crisis of European integration
has strengthened Latin America's idea that there are no single models
on how to approach the joint work of nations that share a same regional
geographic space. On the contrary, it is increasingly being considered
that even Europe might have something to learn from the apparent unorthodox
methods used by Latin American countries to guarantee a reasonable governance
of their own regional space and integrate their markets.
What would then be reasonable to expect from the two upcoming interregional
summits? What would be their most valuable results?
In the case of the Cadiz Summit, there are three outcomes that could
contribute to its success. Working for their fulfillment is one of the
priorities that will require a great attention from the political leadership
on both sides of the Atlantic.
The first of the successful outcomes would be that Spain is able to demonstrate
that it still preserves its convening power. This would mean that the
representatives at the highest political level of a great number of countries
attend the Summit. In this sense, many Heads of State were absent at the
past Asuncion Summit.
The second relevant result would be to reaffirm the reasons that justify
the existence of a differentiated Ibero-American space in the international
system. These are reasons that are directly related to the Ibero-American
cultural identity and its significance as an input for political coexistence
in a growingly global international system increasingly characterized
Finally, the third result would be related to the renewal of the work
methods within the Ibero-American community of nations. This would include
a significant strengthening of the Ibero-American General Secretariat
as a key factor of the system and certain changes in the modalities of
preparation and periodicity of the summits, which have had an annual frequency
since their start.
In turn, in the case of the Santiago de Chile Summit, one significant
result would be that the usefulness of CELAC is made manifest in order
to enable Latin America to express itself under one voice, if possible,
or at least with a certain degree of coordination. However, the most relevant
result would probably be the conclusion -or at least some substantial
advances towards it- of the postponed association agreement between the
European Union and Mercosur.
This would be feasible but would greatly depend on three factors, which
would be viable under the condition that the negotiation clearly evinces
the sufficient political will. The strategic purport of the agreement
that is achieved should permeate every aspect of the negotiation including,
most certainly, trade.
The first factor is that the EU countries -or at least those that are
more relevant for this transatlantic relation, for example due to the
size of their direct investments in Mercosur countries- reaffirm their
political will to conclude a bi-regional agreement, setting aside any
temptation to fall back into bilateral agreement modalities with some
of the Mercosur member countries. There are many reasons that would advise
against this latter option. However the main ones are related to the political
aspects. Any attempt to divide Mercosur countries may stir trends towards
the fragmentation of the South American space. This would not seem convenient
for any of the parties involved.
A second factor is that the dogmatic idea of an agreement that includes,
from the start, an ambitious coverage in terms of trade liberalization
of goods and services is cast aside. A gradual progress towards a broader
coverage, that eventually includes the more sensitive sectors, could be
made by including evolutionary clauses and ingenious safeguard mechanisms.
These would be compatible with a possible interpretation of article XXIV,
paragraph 8 of the GATT, in which the legal rigor could be combined with
the flexibilities derived from political savvy.
Finally, the third factor is that creativity and the learning experiences
accumulated in all these years are used in the approach of other sensitive
issues of the negotiating agenda, such as direct investments. On this
regard, an idea based on experience would be to link the access to the
protection system for direct foreign investments that is eventually included
in the bi-regional agreement with the compliance, on the side of the investors,
of a code of conduct that includes strong elements of transparency and
social responsibility, understood in a broad sense. In this way, a precedent
could be created that would lead to a renewal of the current and obsolete
system for the protection of investments -centered in a vast network of
bilateral agreement signed in other circumstances and in the role that
has been attributed to the ICSID-, facilitating to overcome the credibility
and legitimacy gap that can be observed in many countries and social sectors.