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Martín Santiváñez, researcher of the Navarra Center for International Development (Institute for Culture and Society )

Latin America and the Transatlantic Link


Fri, 09 Aug 2013 09:56:00 +0000 Published in Huffington Post

The creation of a large Trans-Atlantic power area that can ensure governability in the age of globalization is one of the great objectives of international policy in the west. For many decades now, the Schmittian distinction between friend and enemy has been imposed on a geopolitical level, undermining the foundations on which free cooperation based on soft power and the rule of law might be built. The revitalization of the Atlantic alliance would enable us to put this Manichaean distortion behind us. We could thus gradually construct a balanced approach bringing different aspects together in synthesis, which would transcend economic determinism and acknowledge the importance of the common values which inspire both Europe and the United States.

However, we should not forget that Latin America also belongs to this community of values, because it is a living synthesis of western culture and the pre-Columbian indigenous world. Like the United States, Latin America is a melting pot of different cultures which have transformed the region into an open, dynamic and inclusive continent. Overcoming the territorial mentality in international relations means accepting the principle of personality -- homo homini persona -- to make sure that communities and stakeholders that use the same political and economic code to interpret the limits of power can participate jointly in the quest for balanced, all-round development.

If freedom, democracy and the rule of law are universal, Latin America can and must benefit from the regeneration of the Trans-Atlantic bond. If this does not happen, other models will spread, giving precedence to mercantilism and state capitalism. The news that Nicaragua has awarded China a 40 billion dollar contract to build a new canal across the straits confirms this country's increasingly important role in regional politics. Europe and the United States need Latin America to remain open to the ideas that form the basis of representative democracy. Europe and the United States must work to achieve peace in the region, ensuring that it is not dominated by a super-power that is potentially hostile to our common Trans-Atlantic interests. In such a scenario, Latin America should form part of the global partnership that is needed to handle the complexity of the 21st century: rogue and failed states, fractures in the development process and the ongoing task of state-building.

None the less, to this end we have to identify which countries habitually share the Trans-Atlantic model of growth, a model that is essentially institutional. At the moment, the most effective regional movement is the Pacific Alliance. Globalization is not only present in the Atlantic area, but also affects the Pacific. As far as Latin America is concerned, globalization runs the risk of depending too heavily on Beijing. If we allow the countries that are closest to the idea of Trans-Atlantic development to be captured by the Oriental model without offering any realistic alternative, we will have lost a wonderful opportunity to consolidate an effective threefold initiative that would carry us well into the 21st century.

The Pacific Alliance, which encompasses over 210 million people, accounts for 55 percent of Latin American exports, 35 percent of the Latin American GDP and 26 percent of all direct foreign investment in Latin America and the Caribbean. Since 12 June 2012, when its Constitutional Treaty was signed by the governments of Mexico, Peru, Colombia and Chile, the Alliance, which is characterized by a high degree of macro-economic stability, has embarked on an experiment in realism that is unusual in the region, and radically different from the innumerable vain attempts at cooperation that appear in the course of the region's history.

The Alliance aims to achieve openness to trade, legal security and integration into the global power network. Taken together, the countries of the Alliance constitute the ninth world economy, and all of them have Free Trade Agreements with the European Union and the United States. The great Trans-Atlantic power area is of strategic importance for the Pacific Alliance. The countries that form part of the Alliance have reached political maturity that is superior to that of other Latin American nations, and it is therefore feasible for them to join forces and work towards becoming part of a world coalition.

If we want to build a Trans-Atlantic power base, we have to seek interlocutors who speak the language of democratic reasonableness, rather than radical or Messianic ideologies which distort people's view of reality. Institutional rationality does not form part of the political strategy of 21st century socialism -- in fact, it has never done so -- or of the Lula-style assistentialistic approaches. On the other hand, none of these movements would hesitate to oppose transatlantic interests if this enabled them to obtain some kind of political benefit. We need to seek trustworthy allies. We have to broaden our Trans-Atlantic vision. And in this process, Latin America can play a leading role.