Deputy Director-General Julio Amador III of the Foreign Service Institute (FSI) delivered the opening remarks for the lecture-forum “Chile’s Political and Trade Relations with the Asia Pacific Community and with ASEAN: The Role of Pacific Alliance” at the Ateneo de Manila University, Makati City, on 9 September 2015.
The event, which was organized by the Embassy of the Republic of Chile in partnership with the Office of American Affairs of the Department of Foreign Affairs and the FSI, featured Dr. Manfred Wilhelmy, Executive Director of the Chile Pacific Foundation and Professor at the Institute of International Studies, University of Chile.
Professor Wilhelmy focused his discussion on the potential of a deeper cooperation between Latin America and the Asia Pacific through the Pacific Alliance. The Pacific Alliance, comprised of Mexico, Colombia, Peru, and Chile, is an organization that aims to promote “deep integration” of its economies through free movement of goods, services, and labour. It has a combined population of 214 million and GDP of approximately USD 2.1 trillion. The group is taking incremental steps to strengthen ties with other regions particularly the Asia-Pacific. Chile, for example, has sent technical experts to the Philippines to assist the Bureau of Internal Revenue with the taxation system for mining. It is also an active member of the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) and Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). On the other hand, members of the Pacific Alliance have also forged bilateral Free Trade Agreements with South Korea, Japan, and Singapore.
At its nascent stages, having been launched in 2011, the Pacific Alliance to the speaker has great potential of playing an important role in the international arena. This is reflected with its strong political support from its members and the international community. Apart from having ten presidential summits held in a span of four years, member states have also signed a protocol on trade disciplines. There are also membership applications from Panama and Costa Rica which reflects confidence on the bloc’s future. Its desire to further involve the private sector through the Pacific Alliance Business Council (CEAP) will prove vital to its success. In addition, Dr. Wilhemy noted that the lack of heavy bureaucracy permits the grouping to easily interact and engage one another in terms of implementing regional policies.
As the Pacific Alliance continues to develop, it is essential that a roadmap should be created to set clear long-term objectives, in face of challenges ahead. Likewise, it must seek to address problems regarding the establishment of a policy support core, aligning national bureaucracies with regional initiatives, building up support in the grass roots level, engaging and involving observer countries, and implementing regular work cycles including presidential summits. It also needs to involve observer countries in particular the ASEAN, China, Japan, and South Korea, in the crafting of a cooperative agenda to further trade engagements. Most importantly, although MERCORSUR and the Pacific Alliance are believed to be competing blocks, both organizations must develop deeper relations to ensure the mutual benefits for the countries in region.
Representatives from Embassies of Panama, Malaysia, Argentina, Singapore, Cambodia, Myanmar, Laos, Venezuela, Greece, Spain, as well as, various Philippine government agencies, private sector, and academe attended the event.