By: Micaela Ryan / Source: Notas.org / The Dawn News / June 30, 2016.
On the morning of Thursday, June 30, Mauricio Macri arrived in Puerto Varas, Chile, to attend the XI Summit of Heads of State of the Pacific Alliance. It is the first time that Argentina participates in an instance of that body, as an observer country. Mercosur, in the eye of the storm.
Mauricio Macri arrived at noon on Thursday, June 30 Puerto Montt airport, located 21 kilometers away from Puerto Varas, in the Lake District, Chile. This region is one of the most exclusive resorts in the Andean country, installed by the German colonies. The president arrived with his spokesman, Hernán Pavlovsky, and Secretary of Strategic Affairs, Fulvio Pompeo. This is the first official participation of Argentina in an instance of the Pacific Alliance, as an observer.
He immediately went to the town of Frutillar, where he participated in the III Business Summit of the Pacific Alliance. There he spoke to 750 participants, most of them were businessmen from the Sociedad de Fomento Fabril (SOFOFA, main Chilean business chamber). Among the Argentine businessmen were present José Cartelone, entrepreneur of public works, Luis Pagani, president of Arcor Group, and Jaime Campos, president of the Argentina Business Association (AEA).
In his speech, Macri bluntly said that Mercosur should be “freezed out” and converge in a free trade agreement with the countries of the Pacific Alliance. To this end, he stressed that Brazil must “redirect its situation as soon as possible”.
The President added that there was already “too much protectionism in Argentina” and that it is necessary to achieve “an orderly transition, non critical, towards the integration of Mercosur”. The president said he hopes that this can be done “briefly with the Pacific Alliance and then the whole world”. Without hesitation, he promoted that regional model but “taking care of the jobs we have”.
Flatteries: first public exchanges between States
In the afternoon of June 30 the XI Summit of Heads of State began at the Teatro del Lago, with the presence of the Presidents Michelle Bachelet (Chile), Juan Manuel Santos (Colombia), Enrique Peña Nieto (Mexico) and Ollanta Humala (Peru). Macri and Solis, in his capacity as Presidents of observer States, were unable to speak.
On Friday July 1 Bachelet will receive the pro tempore presidency of the body, which is occupied by Peru since 2015. Chile will lead the Pacific Alliance for the next 12 months.
Previously, on June 29, Susana Malcorra Chancellor and Minister of Finance, Alfonso Prat-Gay, shared a meeting. Prat Gay said: “We have a common space to which we belong and we want to belong, which is Mercosur, so our movements will be in the framework of Mercosur”.
Meanwhile, Malcorra said that for Argentina to participate as a “privileged observers” of the summit “is a new step towards integration with the Pacific Alliance in the short term”
The Chancellor said that the priority now is to achieve a Mercosur free trade agreement with the EU, negotiations are underway.
In addition to Malcorra, Prat Gay, Pavlovsky and Pompeo, Commerce Secretary, Miguel Braun and Argentine ambassador to Chile, Jose Octavio Bordon also joined the entourage.
Argentina’s turn to the Pacific Alliance is implies a change in the regional foreign policy after 25 years of construction of Mercosur.
The position taken by Uruguay and Paraguay will be crucial to define this changes.
According to statements given to La Nación (Argentinian media), Uruguayan Foreign Minister Nin Novoa said: “We want to make progress in trade negotiations between Mercosur and the Pacific Alliance to break once and for all that imaginary second Treaty of Tordesillas that has been separating us for so long”.
In this line, Novoa reported that President Tabare Vazquez has already taken action by asking Paraguay to be the “coordinator” country of the possible negotiations.
Three out of the four members of the Pacific Alliance are signatories to the Trans Pacific Treaty, a commercial free trade agreement linking Asian and Latin America countries, led by the United States.
The possible entry of Mercosur to the Pacific Alliance, involves the installation of a hegemonic economic model in the region based on opening markets, eliminating local industry and strengthening commodity exports.
Given the disturbing background of the members of the Pacific Alliance countries, whose social inequalities are the deepest in the region, the impacts this may have on the working class and local economies of the continent are still immeasurable.