Pretty good news from Latin America: the Pacific Alliance

While Venezuela, at one time arguably the richest country in the region, sells itself to Cuba and careens into disaster, and Argentina, another has-been, defaults yet again, it is easy to despair about the state of things in our hemisphere.

It comes as a relief to read about the Pacific Alliance, a common market in the making between Chile, Colombia, Mexico and Peru.

Do not confuse the Pacific Alliance with the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP)

The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) is an ambitious, 21st century trade agreement that the United States is negotiating with 11 other countries throughout the Asia-Pacific region (Australia, Brunei Darussalam, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, and Vietnam).

The Pacific Alliance is about getting things done, with the presidents of the four countries attending meetings with specific statements and detailed timelines to advance agreed-upon goals (emphasis added):

Also in contrast to the underlying purpose of other groupings—including economic blocs such as Mercosur—Pacific Alliance members have achieved consensus on a model of economic and political integration aimed at attracting investment and creating export platforms for the global market. All have opted for a pragmatic relationship structured around bilateral free-trade agreements (FTAs) with the U.S., the EU and Asian countries.

The Pacific Alliance is perceived as a geopolitical counterweight to ideological and political trends on display in countries ranging from Brazil to Venezuela. It looks outward, acting in some ways like a free-trade zone (through the several bilateral accords among its members). But it is also oriented toward promoting greater cooperation and partnership among member countries. Another key objective is facilitating entry into the Asian market and, particularly, creating greater bargaining power than any of the individual countries could muster separately when approaching China. At the same time, the Pacific Alliance seeks a competitive edge for its members when competing with Asian countries for trade with the U.S. by providing better—and cheaper—products.

Last March I wrote about Vice-President Biden’s meetings with the four Pacific Alliance presidents.

Now in New York for the UN General Assembly, the presidents of Chile, Colombia, Mexico and Peru issued a joint article , Chile, Colombia, Mexico, Peru: Better Together summarizing the Alliance’s purpose (emphasis added),

We firmly believe that the main purpose of the Pacific Alliance is to improve the welfare of all our citizens through the promotion of growth and economic development, and the improvement of the competitiveness of our economies.

Among the measures: reviewing foreign investment laws so they are more attractive to foreign companies, agreeing on zero percent tariffs for 90 percent of traded goods, cooperating on environmental and social issues and scientific and technological innovation, police and customs cooperation to track cross-border criminal activity.

The Alliance has many challenges ahead, not the least of which involve political populist tendencies among their leaders, but, considering what it has accomplished on its first three years, that’s pretty good news to celebrate.

Fausta Rodríguez Wertz writes on US and Latin American politics, news, and culture at Fausta’s Blog.