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Chile's former president Lagos warns of Pacific Alliance, TPP risks

Bnamericas Published: Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Former Chilean president Ricardo Lagos sees risks with the Latin American trading bloc known as the Pacific Alliance and the planned Trans-Pacific Partnership free trade agreement.

Chile, Colombia, Mexico and Peru are the founding and only full members of the Pacific Alliance, which was officially launched in June 2012.

Speaking at a seminar on Wednesday focused on regional integration and hosted by the UN Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (Eclac), Lagos said the Pacific Alliance risked dividing Latin America into countries looking towards the Pacific and other countries looking towards the Atlantic to boost trade and investment.

This in turn could jeopardize the regional integration efforts that Latin America - and the Caribbean - should be pursuing to be able to speak with a single and stronger voice in global affairs, including economics, commerce and politics, he said, and added that a fragmented integration in Latin America was something "unacceptable."

Lagos called on the governments of the Pacific Alliance to invite the countries on Latin America's Atlantic coast to join the bloc. He also told reporters after the seminar that an important regional country like Brazil should already have been invited to join.

The minimum requirement to become a member of the Pacific Alliance is to have free trade agreements in place with all the founding members. Some 20 nations from Latin America and other regions of the world currently have observer status in the bloc and the only two observer countries that have candidate status are Costa Rica and Panama.

The Pacific Alliance nations have a combined population of around 210mn and represent approximately 50% of trade in Latin America.

TPP CONCERNS

Lagos - who governed Chile from 2000-06 - also raised concerns about the lack of transparency that has surrounded the TPP talks.

The TPP is a free trade initiative that is under negotiation and includes countries like Australia, Brunei, Chile, Canada, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, the US and Vietnam.

Lagos mentioned reports by Wikileaks and the New York Times on the issue. He said that negotiations are by their very nature private, but basic information is usually shared by negotiators with their fellow countrymen regarding the main issues on the table and the progress being made.

"The TPP suffers from a serious lack of transparency, threatens to impose more stringent copyright [rules] without public input, and pressures foreign governments to adopt unbalanced laws," according to an article on the TPP from the Public Knowledge website. 

As for Chile, the former president recommended that the country approach the TPP initiative with caution as it could lead to a review of the free trade agreement that Chile already has with the US. The areas of intellectual property and financial services could be at the greatest risk, according to Lagos.

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