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The Future of Latin America's 'Growth Engine'
by Andres Oppenheimer
Foreign Minister Heraldo Munoz vehemently denies that Chile's new left-of-center
government will distance itself from - and in effect weaken - the
Before we get into whether we should take his word for it, let's see what he told me in a long interview when I asked him about press reports quoting Chilean President Michelle Bachelet as saying that she will "review" her country's participation in the
"No, no, we have not said that. That's what the media have said," Munoz told me. "What we have said is that we will continue being active in the
He added, "We do not want the
Among other things,
Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos has described the Alliance as Latin America's "new economic and development engine." Such statements have irked Brazil, however.
Either because Chile has huge business connections with Brazil and Argentina, or because Bachelet wants to distance herself from her conservative predecessor's enthusiastic support for the
Munoz told me that Chile wants to invite Brazil - Latin America's biggest economy - to play a role in the
When I asked him whether that's not a recipe for slowing down or killing the Alliance, considering that Brazilian officials have publicly expressed their dislike for the Pacific bloc, Munoz rejected that notion.
He said that Chile will propose "gradual outreach and dialogue" measures to bring Brazil into the Alliance, such as agreements on the free movement of people, student exchanges and infrastructure projects along the borders. "All of these things can serve as building blocs toward bigger things," Munoz said.
I argued that inviting Brazil could have the effect of slowing down the Alliance because a train moves at the speed of its slowest wagon. He responded that there is no need to slow down the Alliance because the Pacific trade bloc can perfectly well advance "at two speeds."
Much like the
"I can assure you that the Alliance is very much within our radar," Munoz said. "But Chile wants to be a bridge country, so that Atlantic coast countries can move their goods to the Pacific through our ports. To do that, we need to improve our ties with the Atlantic."
My opinion: The Bachelet government is right in seeking better ties with Brazil and Argentina, which are vital to its economy.
But I wonder whether it should do it at the expense of trying to strip the Alliance off its political aura of Latin America's "engine of economic growth," because its "regional brand" could be its best carrot to attract foreign investors.
Much like the Czech Republic and other small countries in Europe, it's much easier for Chile to sell itself as a good place to invest as part of a larger group of free market economies - "invest in Chile, and you can export to bigger members of the
At a time when world investors are getting increasingly wary or emerging markets, I wonder whether Chile should not be - at least tacitly - promoting the
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Article: Distributed via Foreign Policy in Focus
"The Future of Latin America's 'Growth Engine'"