By Andrew Davis *
The Summit of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC by its Spanish acronym) presided by Mexico on Saturday turned out to be a mixed blessing for the hosts. On the one hand, the event was a rare meeting of heads of states and functionaries. On the other, not a great deal was achieved.
The Mexican government has turned to foreign policy after mid-term elections as its influence over Congress has weakened; a common turn of events in politics, as this type of high-profile activity requires less ratification and always goes down well with the electorate.
Andrés Manuel López Obrador (AMLO), Mexican President, had already stated in an address in July that he envisioned a Latin American Union of States based on that of the European Union, as a reaction to Organization of American States (OAS), which according to him was too dependent on the United States and Canada. Latin America and the Caribbean, he insisted, needed to look inward and stop relying on the selfish capitalist interests of the North. Many democratic countries in Latin America objected, and the debate became more political as countries such as Bolivia, Venezuela and Cuba started to side with Mexico.
For the CELAC summit last Saturday, AMLO decided to turn down and propose a Union of the Americas, which would include the United States and Canada. Even so, this kind of ambitious integration would require stable democracies in all member states to make it work. Clear divisions of power, a pluralistic presence of different ideologies in Congress or Parliament, freedom of press, and human rights would be prerequisites for membership. Little economic fluctuation and stable indicators would be a requirement for eventual economic union in the Americas. A supranational, hence a united currency, would require member states to adhere to macroeconomic stability and to give up monetary autonomy. They would also have to show discipline with such indicators as inflation, exchange rates, interest rates and government debt as convergence criterion.
Unfortunately, the European Union is under considerable stress in part due to uncontrollable migration patterns from the South to the North. This phenomenon was unforeseen, and would be an undoing of such an agreement in Latin America.
It seems that due to the circumstances, bilateral agreements are a more viable option in the Americas at the moment; Chile and Paraguay are in talks, Uruguay and China have initiated discussions, and Mexico are to reinitiate negotiations with Ecuador to admit the country into the Pacific Rim.
Much of the failure in good intentions from Saturday’s CELAC summit (in terms of economic integration), is probably down to poor diplomacy on the part of the Mexican promotors: partaking in official talks in Washington one week, inviting the Cuban head of State to festivities the next, and then holding a summit to forge a Union of States among Latin American states as champions. This was always likely to stir up trouble and alienate traditional friends.
* Andrew Davis is a full-time professor and consultant at the International Business and Logistics Faculty at the Tec de Monterrey University in Santa Fe, Mexico City.