Last week, in Merída, Mexico, the leaders of Chile, Mexico, Peru, and Colombia met to affirm their shared commitment to economic integration, growth, and competitiveness.
You may not have heard of the summit. In fact, a Google search of recent U.S. news articles covering the meeting of the “Pacific Alliance” turns up only nine results. It seems that while the United States’ key partners in Latin America were meeting to discuss critical economic and trade issues, America failed to pay much attention.
America’s disregard, however, makes little sense. With a total population that exceeds 200 million, the nations of the Pacific Alliance account for 34 percent of Latin America’s gross domestic product and 50 percent of Latin America’s total trade. In fact, trade in the four alliance countries is higher than that of the already two-decades-old Mercosur trade bloc.
First formed in April, the Pacific Alliance seeks to create a trade bloc along the Pacific Rim focused on promoting common trade interests, innovation, and investment. Meeting for the second time this year, the leaders of Chile, Mexico, Peru, and Colombia (with Panama in attendance as an observer) committed to signing a framework agreement to promote economic integration and the free movement of goods, people, and services within six months.
Mexican President Felipe Calderón proclaimed at the summit, “Today, we are taking a crucial step for the future of our region.… It’s an unprecedented force that is key in an insecure global environment.” Of course, he also went on to explain that “economic growth in the years to come will not be motivated by growth in the United States.”
With the recent economic downturn and after the U.S. free trade agreements with Colombia and Panama were put on hold for years, it really should come as no surprise that some members of the Pacific Alliance have become disenchanted with the United States. Yet the U.S. can still turn these relationships around and take a vested interest in the Pacific Alliance process.
Speaking specifically of U.S.–Peru relations earlier this year, Heritage analysts James Roberts and Ray Walser explained that “a shared commitment by both countries to opening the Pacific Rim for trade and market opportunities will add jobs to the U.S. and reinforce deeply rooted U.S.–Peruvian ties of trade and friendship.” Likewise, the economic efforts of Chile, Colombia, Peru, and Mexico could serve as a democratic and free-market counterweight to the continuing leftist movement through Venezuela, Ecuador, and Nicaragua, as well as an increasingly independent Brazil.
The United States should not let our allies in Latin America continue to question our resolve. Offering U.S. support to the Pacific Alliance’s free market objectives is truly in the best interests of all.