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  Félix Peña

INTERNATIONAL TRADE RELATIONS NEWSLETTER
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BUILDING AN EFFECTIVE AND CREDIBLE REGIONALISM: harnessing the available institutional potential

por Félix Peña
July 2022


 

In the coming months, it will be necessary to follow the political and economic developments in the region, including those related to the evolution of global developments, especially as a result of the war in Ukraine and the turmoil in the world economy and trade.

It is in this perspective that the political and economic developments that may take place in the South American region (with their repercussions at the social level) will demand attention, especially in view of the upcoming presidential elections in Brazil next October.

Likewise, the current international disorder can lead, as it has in the past, to scenarios of anarchy and chaos. Just imagining the consequences of this possible future can stimulate a positive vision of the construction of alternate scenarios.

Such alternate scenarios could be the result of progress made at three complementary levels in the construction of institutional frameworks that promote convergence in diversity among South American countries and that systematically combine political, economic and legal dimensions. We are referring to the global level, the regional level and the level of each country.

From the Argentine perspective, three institutional frameworks of which the country is a member have the potential, if properly harnessed, to improve its ability to face economic and political international competition, whose new stage is now beginning to be outlined, at least in practice. The first of these is the WTO, the second is LAIA, and the third is Mercosur.


As has happened in the past, the current international turmoil could potentially lead to scenarios of anarchy and chaos. Just imagining the consequences of such a future can stimulate a positive vision of the construction of alternate scenarios.

Such scenarios could be the result of the progress made on three complementary levels in the construction of institutional frameworks that promote convergence in diversity (as was proposed at the time by Heraldo Muñoz, President Michel Bachelet's Foreign Minister in Chile), in which the political, economic and legal dimensions are systematically combined.

One of these is the global level, in which the construction of an institutional framework that is functional to a more intense cooperation among the nations of the international system is continued. This is the task ahead for the World Trade Organization (WTO) and will be more effective to the extent that it manages to find intelligent approaches that reconcile agreements involving all its member countries with the so-called "plurilateral pacts". These aim to be global in scope even when they do not include all countries. Could this be possible? Certainly, on the condition that they reflect the realization of a genuine will to incorporate, albeit gradually, those countries that initially opted not to become members of the corresponding plurilateral pact.

The second is the regional level, especially due to its projection to other regions through inter-regional agreements. The recent experience of the Asia-Pacific countries, particularly that which has started with the RCEP (Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership), can be added to the experience being accumulated by the European Union (EU), still in rapid evolution and to that which can be glimpsed in the future development of the AU (African Union), which would enable to harness the full potential of that region. These are all valuable experiences to inspire the future development of Latin American regionalism.

The third level is that of the national strategy of each country of the international system, regardless of its size and relative power, as to how best to navigate a world that is increasingly connected and, at the same time, uncertain and not necessarily supportive. The quality and effectiveness of this strategy will depend on the correct diagnosis of the challenges and opportunities that the global environment offers every country (even the smallest and weakest), if they are clear about their strengths and weaknesses in political and economic competition at the global level as well as in the region to which they belong.

From the Argentine perspective, three institutional frameworks of which the country is a member have the potential, if properly harnessed, to improve its ability to navigate the waters of economic and political international competition, whose new stage is now beginning to be outlined, at least in practice. The first of these is the World Trade Organization (WTO), the second is the Latin American Integration Association (LAIA), and the third is Mercosur.

Following the results of the Ministerial Conference recently held in Geneva (June 12-17, 2022), Argentina will need to continue to play an active role in the WTO, together with its Mercosur partners and other Latin American countries, to restore and strengthen an effective and efficient dispute settlement system, as well as to promote the inclusion of plurilateral trade agreements in the WTO framework.

In the case of LAIA, a careful reading of the 1980 Treaty of Montevideo would help to reaffirm the assessment that must be made of its institutional and regulatory framework, analyzed from the perspective of the different areas of its competences. Among others, this is particularly true in the case of the rules referring to the extent of the so-called "partial scope agreements" (especially Articles 7, 8 and 14). The question we should ask ourselves when reading the 1980 Treaty of Montevideo is whether we are really taking advantage of all the potential that this instrument offers in terms of policies and instruments aimed at joint work among its member countries.

In the case of Mercosur, when asked whether it is taking full advantage of the existing institutional framework, the answer would be that this is not necessarily so. Addressing the shortcomings in its development would not require modifications to its current founding legal provisions. As an example, we can mention the question related to the role that the Secretariat could eventually play in bringing together the initiatives of the member countries in order to implement decisions that effectively penetrate reality. In addition, we could refer to the full use of the instrument of sectoral agreements provided for in Article 5(c) and, mainly, in Decision 3/1991.

Both in the case of LAIA and Mercosur, as well as the interaction with the Pacific Alliance and the Andean Community of Nations, the changes that are taking place after the presidential elections in Chile and Colombia are beginning to envision the generation of new political and economic scenarios, which could even be very positive, for the development of the idea of joint work among the countries of the South American region, with a broader scope in the case of LAIA due to its Latin American projection.

A relevant fact for the necessary task of imagining future positive scenarios in the region is that Gustavo Petro, the elected President of Colombia, has appointed José Antonio Ocampo as Minister of Finance. A renowned specialist in economics, development and international trade, Ocampo has also held multiple international positions, including that of the Executive Secretariat of the United Nations Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC). He has recently published a book on international governance and development which we have listed as recommended reading of this newsletter.

In the upcoming months it will be necessary to closely monitor the political and economic developments that are taking place in the region, particularly in the presidential elections in Brazil, even as a consequence of the evolution of global events and especially as an effect of the war in Ukraine and the disarray that can be observed in the economy and world trade.

To conclude we will mention two events of interest related to the issues that we have discussed in this newsletter. This information was provided by Edgar Vieira Posada, Director of the Global Thought Center (CEPEG) of the Cooperative University of Colombia. The first event is the Symposium "Europe-Latin America: results of the conference on the future of Europe and actions to relaunch Latin American integration", to be held in Madrid on October 13th and 14th. It will be carried out jointly by the Euro-Latin American Institute for Integration Studies (IELEPI) and the Group for Reflection on Integration and Development of the Cooperative University of Colombia (GRIDALE). The second event is the III GRIDALE Congress, which will take place in Sao Paulo during the second half of June 2023. Let us remember that the II Congress was held in Buenos Aires and it was organized jointly by GRIDALE and the National University of Tres de Febrero (UNTREF). For more information on the latter refer to the March 2021 issue of our newsletter.


Lecturas recomendadas:


  • Brugnatelli, Niky, "The US-China battle for the semiconductor industry", East Asia Forum, 4 June 2022, en www.eastasiaforum.org.
  • CEPAL, "Economía digital para el cambio y la igualdad", Mario Castillo (coordinador), CEPAL-@LIS, Santiago de Chile 2013
  • Chander, Anupam, "Towards an Asian digital trade zone", East Asia Forum, 19 June 2022, en www.eastasiaforum.org.
  • Chen, Lurong, "Accelerating digital transformation in Asia", East Asia Forum, 22 June 2022, en www.eastasiaforum.org.
  • Chung, Kuyoun, "Will the Quad deliver to its promises?", East Asia Forum, 22 June 2022, en http://www.eastasiaforum.org.
  • Domingo, Francis, "Diplomacy in the time of cyber conflict". East Asia Forum, 2 June 2022, en http://www.eastasiaforum.org.
  • Drysdale, Peter; Armstrong, Shiro, "How Australia can find common purpose with China", East Asia Forum, 27 June 2022, en http://www.eastasiaforum.org.
  • Elizondo, Marcelo, "Crónica de la (des)relación de la Argentina con las importaciones", Suplemento Comercio Exterior del diario La Nación, jueves 30 de Junio 2022, página 3.
  • Judge, Kathryn, "Direct. The Rise of the Middleman Economy and the Power of Going to the Source", HarperCollins Publisher. London-New York, 2022.
  • Haskel, Jonathan; Westlake, Stian, "Restarting the Future. How to Fix the Intangible Economy", Princeton University Press, Princeton and Oxford 2022.
  • Katzenstein, Peter; Kirshner, Jonathan, (editors), "The Downfall of the American Order", Cornell Univesity Press, Ithaca and London 2022.
  • Malamud, Carlos, "Las repercusiones regionales del triunfo de Petro", Real Instituto Elcano 20, 27 de Junio 2022, en www.realinstitutoelcano.org.
  • Mondino, Diana, "La Argentina no solo tiene la oportunidad de abastecer al mundo; es su responsabilidad", Suplemento Comercio Exterior del diario La Nación, jueves 9 de Junio 2022., página 3.
  • Morgenthau, Hans J., "Intervine or Not to Intervine", Foreign Affairs, vol 45, number 3, April 1967.
  • Ocampo, José Antonio (coordenacao), "Governanca Internacional e Desenvolvimento", Cátedra José Bonifácio 8, Editora de Universidade de Sao Paulo-EDUSP, Sao Paulo 2021.
  • Ocampo, José Antonio, "Cooperación económica internacional durante la crisis de la COVID-19", páginas 35-69, en José Antonio Ocampo, "Governanca Internacional e Desenvolvimento" (coordenacao), Edusp, Sao Paulo 2021.
  • Peña, Félix, "Gobernabilidad del sistema de comercio internacional", páginas 243-262, en Ocampo José Antonio (coordenacao), "Governanca Internacional e Desenvolvimento", Edusp. Sao Paulo 2021.
  • Peña, Félix, "Una agenda sudamericana para enfrentar la incertidumbre", diario Clarín, Opinión, martes 14 de Junio 2022, página 26.
  • Peña, Félix, "El Mercosur afronta hoy una profunda crisis de credibilidad y eficacia", Suplemento de Comercio Exterior del diario La Nación, jueves 16 de Junio 2022, página 3.
  • Plokhy, Serhii, "Atoms and Ashes. A Global History of Nuclear Disasters", W.W.Norton & Company, New York 2022.
  • Rosales, Osvaldo, "La irrupción de China y las tensiones en la gobernabilidad económica mundial", páginas 163-197, en Ocampo, José Antonio (coordenacao), "Governanca Internacional e Desenvolvimento", Edusp, Sao Paulo 2021.
  • Smil. Vaclav, "Oil. A Beginners's Guide", Oneworld Book, 2008.
  • Smil, Vaclav, "How the World Really Works. The Science Behind How We Got Here and Where We're Going", Viking, Penguien Random House, London 2022.
  • Teo, Sarah, "The Quad and ASEAN -where to next?", East Asia Forum, 24 June 2022, en www.eastasiaforum.org.
  • Thompson, Helen, "Disorder. Hard Times in the 21st Century", Oxford University Press, Oxford 2022.
  • Timmer, Peter, "Food Security now top priority for G20 Cooperation", East Asia Forum, 5 June 2022, en www.eastasiaforum.org.

Félix Peña es Director del Instituto de Comercio Internacional de la Fundación ICBC; Director de la Maestría en Relaciones Comerciales Internacionales de la Universidad Nacional de Tres de Febrero (UNTREF); Miembro del Comité Ejecutivo del Consejo Argentino para las Relaciones Internacionales (CARI). Miembro del Brains Trust del Evian Group. Ampliar trayectoria.

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


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