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  Félix Peña

INTERNATIONAL TRADE RELATIONS NEWSLETTER
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GOVERNMENT INSTITUTIONS AND REGIONIAL GOVERNANCE:
Towards a new map of cooperation in the Latin American space

by Félix Peña
September 2012

English translation: Isabel Romero Carranza


 

A new map of institutions for government cooperation is gradually emerging in the Latin American region. As a set they express the political will of ensuring a regional governance that is effective and, if possible, efficient. This implies the existence of formal or informal mechanisms and institutions that provide public assets to facilitate the achievement of common goals for the countries in the region as a whole or in each of its sub regions. Not always, however, observers outside the region and even the citizens themselves seem to have a positive perception of the effectiveness and efficiency of these institutions.

In this perspective the recent meeting for the coordination of various agencies in Latin America and the Caribbean with competence in the field of trade and economic and social development which took place in Montevideo on 16 and 17 August, can be regarded as a positive event. The meeting was held at the LAIA headquarters and was organized within the framework of the latest of the regional institutions, which is the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC). It was preceded by a seminar of experts convened by the Association of Latin American Sates (LAIA) and the Latin American Development Bank (CAF) and which also took place in Montevideo two weeks earlier. Of all the results of this meeting it is perhaps the idea of a common portal what will enable to assess the progress achieved in the coordination of all regional institutions in the future. The quality of this site will depend heavily on the quality of the Web pages of all participating institutions and on the degree of transparency that these seek to have, which will in turn be a reflection of the transparency evinced in the member countries regarding the issues that affect the agendas of each agency.


Gradually, a new map of government cooperation institutions is emerging in the Latin American region. Some of the existing ones have a long history. Others were created more recently. They reflect a geographic space of variable geometries and multiple diversities. However, they also reflect different moments of the slow and gradual process of building a region around common goals.

As a group, they express the political will to create conditions that enable to achieve a reasonable degree of regional governance that is effective and if possible, efficient. This implies the existence of formal or informal mechanisms and institutions that provide public assets to facilitate the achievement of common goals for the countries in the region as a whole or in each of its sub regions.

These common goals are often multidimensional. They may have a political nature, such as ensuring peace and democratic stability in the shared geographic space or facilitating the coordination of interests in the global international arena. In other cases, they have an economic and social outreach by facilitating the cooperation and, eventually, the integration among the participating nations, including various forms of trade preferences and productive integration. It is common for their objectives and fields of action to be varied. In other cases, they may be limited to certain sectors such as, for example, the energy sector.

Not always, however, observers outside the region and even the citizens themselves seem to have a positive perception of the effectiveness and efficiency of these institutions. On the contrary, the impression that there is sometimes a tendency more towards appearances and special effects of media outreach than towards the production of concrete facts that contribute to the development and cooperation in the Latin American geographic space tends to dominate. Additionally, the most common criticism is related to the duplication of functions and responsibilities, the low transparency and a certain democratic deficit in their functioning.

Within this perspective, a positive fact was the recent meeting for the coordination of governing bodies of Latin America and the Caribbean with competency on trade and social and economic development, which was held in Montevideo on 16 and 17 August. It took place at the LAIA headquarters and was convened under the frame of the latest of the regional institutions, the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC). It was preceded by a seminar of experts convened by the LAIA and the CAF, which took place also in Montevideo about two weeks earlier.

The institutions participating in that meeting reflect the current map of regional governance in terms of trade and economic development. The most recent of them, the CELAC, is precisely the one with the broadest regional coverage as its membership covers the entire geographical area of Latin America and the Caribbean. It was created as a forum or representative mechanism for political consultation, cooperation and integration of Latin American and Caribbean States and as a common area to ensure the unity and integration of the countries of Latin America and the Caribbean (see the Caracas Declaration, from December 2 and 3, 2011 on http://www.minrel.gob.cl/). For its origins, check the Cancun Declaration (2010) on http://www.minrel.gob.cl/). For the modalities of its operation see the document on procedures for the organic functioning of CELAC on http://www.minrel.gob.cl/). This year, the pro tempore presidency is held by Chile (see http://www.minrel.gob.cl/).

Besides the CELAC, the main participating government institutions were the Latin American Integration association (LAIA) (http://www.aladi.org), which is the main institution of regional Latin American scope and membership at the level of regional trade and its multiple economic derivations; the Union of South American Nations (UNASUR) (http://www.unasursg.org/), which is relatively new and whose membership encompasses the whole South American geographic space; the Economic Commission for Latin America (ECLAC) (http://www.eclac.org/), which belongs to the United Nations system and whose responsibilities and membership also include the whole Latin American and Caribbean space; and the Latin American Economic System (SELA) (http://www.sela.org), which has a longer history and whose members include countries from Latin America and the Caribbean. Other sub regional institutions participated as well: the Bolivarian Alliance for the Countries of Our America (ALBA) (http://www.alba-tcp.org/); the Andean Community of Nations (CAN) (http://www.comunidadandina.org/); the Southern Common Market (Mercosur) (http://www.mercosur.int), and the Association of Caribbean States (AEC) (http://www.acs-aec.org/index.php?q=es). To these we should now add the Alliance of the Pacific (Chile, Colombia, Mexico and Peru), whose institutionalization still needs to be fully defined within the Lima Declaration of 2011 and with what was agreed at the Fourth Summit in the Paranal Observatory in Antofagasta, Chile on 6 and 7 July ( see the information on this initiative and its developments on http://www.minrel.gob.cl/). In turn, the CAF Development Bank of Latin America (www.caf.org), which participated as well, originated as a financial institution of sub regional scope and today has a Latin American purview and membership. Finally we should mention the participation of the Latin American Energy Organization (OLADE) (http://www.olade.org/), which has regional Latin American and Caribbean members but with sector-wide scope.

As reflected in the official data from the Montevideo meeting (see: http://www.aladi.org/) "American agencies agreed to work together, to complement and cooperate with each other to make the integration process more efficient and, at the same time, to strengthen the brand new ECLAC".

Also, the emphasis was placed on avoiding the dispersion, fragmentation and duplication of tasks. As noted above, this is precisely the most frequent criticism to the multiplicity of existing organisms. Again according to official information in Montevideo they decided to "work together to build American citizenship, to expand regional trade, to overcome asymmetries, to achieve energy integration and for the modernization of the infrastructure and the successful social inclusion in the region".

Two outcomes of the meeting may have, if reflected in reality, a positive effect on the effectiveness and efficiency of the action of all regional institutions. Indeed, on the one hand "it was agreed to have a common web page to collect the information on the agendas of all organisms and to systematically meet twice a year to articulate common tasks." The idea of a common portal can be very useful to the extent that it compiles the information provided in the different Web pages, which are not always of similar quality, for the management of the competitive intelligence by the different players in the economies of the region. On the other hand "it was agreed that each agency should appoint someone to be in charge of the follow up of the issues and relations between the different agencies so as to work continuously and systematically towards cooperation and convergence".

One of the most important aspects of the meeting, and one of the highlights resulting from the creation of CELAC -conceived as a mechanism for regional dialogue and coordination-, is the participation of Caribbean countries as relevant players. This reflects the interest in the integration experience of Caribbean countries whose agencies, as noted in the information released at the end of the meeting, have achieved a high degree of efficiency and public resonance in that region.

Finally, it should be noted that, at the meeting in Montevideo, the task of uniting the Latin American region even more was raised as a major strategic imperative. Different and sometimes significant problems derived from asymmetries, heterogeneity and diversity in the models for development and in the strategies for global integration have to be confronted for its achievement. As pointed out by the Secretary General of LAIA, Carlos Chacho Alvarez, this union is more necessary in the light of the new challenges and opportunities posed to the region by the new realities of global economic competition and, in particular, by the growing role of the countries of the Asia-Pacific region. It is worth mentioning, as an example of regional institutional coordination, the recent creation of the Latin America-Asia Pacific Observatory as a result of the joint action of the LAIA, ECLAC and CAF.

Of all the results of this meeting, it will be perhaps the creation of a common portal what will enable to assess the progress achieved in the coordination of all regional institutions in the future. The quality of this site will depend greatly on the Web pages of all participating institutions and the degree of transparency that they seek to have, which will in turn be a reflection of the transparency prevailing in the member countries regarding those issues that affect the agendas of each of the agencies involved.


Recommended Reading:


  • Abente Brun, Diego; Borda, Dionisio (eds.), "El Reto del Futuro. Asumiendo el legado del Bicentenario", Ministerio de Hacienda del Paraguay - CAF, Asunción, 2012.
  • Abreu Bonilla, Sergio, "Una herida letal al Mercosur", Consejo Uruguayo para las Relaciones Internacionales (CURI), Estudio n° 06/12, Montevideo, 22 August, 2012 on http://curi.org.uy/.
  • Acemoglu, Daron; Robinson, James A., "Why Nations Fail. The Origins of Power, Prosperity and Poverty", Crown Business, New York 2012.
  • Albertoni Gómez, Nicolás, "Entre el Barrio y el Mundo. ¿Mercosur o el modelo chileno? Dos alternativas para Uruguay", Taurus - Pensamiento, Montevideo 2011.
  • CIU, "XLIII Reunión del Consejo del Mercado Común del Mercosur - Informe Semestral - Junio 2012", Cámara de Industrias del Uruguay, Departamento de Integración y Comercio Internacional, Dirección de Investigación y Análisis, Año 9 - n° 18, Montevideo, July 30, 2012, on http://www.ciu.com.uy/.
  • CEPAL, "Cambio Estructural para la Igualdad. Una visión integrada para el desarrollo", CEPAL, Trigésimo Cuarto Período de Sesiones, en San Salvador, 27 to 31 August, 2012, Santiago de Chile 2012, on http://www.eclac.org/.
  • CEPAL, "Panorama de la inserción internacional de América Latina y el Caribe. Crisis duradera en el centro y nuevas oportunidades para las economías en desarrollo", CEPAL, Santiago de Chile 2012, on http://www.eclac.org/.
  • Crowley, Roger, "City of Fortune. How Venice Ruled the Seas", Random House, New York 2011.
  • Fiaramonti, Lorenzo (ed.), "Regions and Crises. New Challenges for Contemporary Regionalisms", Palgrave, Macmillan, London, 2012.
  • Kühnhardt, Ludger, "Europa en Transición", en Archivos del Presente, n° 57/58, ps. 55 a 66, Buenos Aires 2012.
  • Marsh, Peter, "The New Industrial Revolution. Consumers, Globalization and the End of Mass Production", Yale University Press, New Haven - London, 2012.
  • Massi, Fernando, "Los desafíos de una nueva inserción externa del Paraguay", in Brun-Borda (eds), "El Reto del Futuro", Asunción 2012, ps.115 a 153.
  • Mishra, Pankaj, "From the Ruins of Empire. The Intellectuals Who Remade Asia", Farrar, Straus and Giroux, New York 2012.
  • Moneta, Carlos; Cesarín, Sergio (eds.), "Tejiendo redes. Estrategias de las empresas internacionales asiáticas en América Latina", Eduntref, Buenos Aires 2012.
  • Oviedo, Eduardo Daniel, "Historia de las Relaciones Internacionales entre Argentina y China, 1945/2010", Editorial Dunken, Buenos Aires 2010.
  • Peña, Félix, "What lessons can we draw from the EU?s recent difficulties?", en RIO, vol. 6, n° 2, p. 6, Bonn, August 2012, on http://www.zei.uni-bonn.de/.
  • Peña, Félix, "Una idea que merece atención", en Letras internacionales, n° 165, Universidad ORT, Montevideo, September 2012, on http://www.ort.edu.uy/.
  • Roy, Joaquín, "La Unión Europea, desde Estados Unidos: Percepción, Investigación, Acción", Consejo Uruguayo para las Relaciones Internacionales (CURI), Estudio 07/12, Montevideo, 27 August, 2012, on http://curi.org.uy/.
  • Vogl, Matthias (ed.), "RIO: Regional Integration Observer", Center for European Integration Studies, ZEI, Universtatbonn, vol 6, n° 2, Bonn, August 2012, on http://www.zei.uni-bonn.de/.

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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