Speech by Jorge Rosenblut
Washington, D.C, April 2013
I see two Latin Americas quietly but quickly emerging.
On the Pacific Side of Latin America, I see four countries that have developed a recent economic alliance – a bold concept, barely one year old, known as “The Pacific Alliance” which is a thriving partnership that is setting the foundation for a new developmental construct.
This alliance provides a huge opportunity to help shift Latin American economic history towards a modern, free market, free trade oriented path. According to the IMF, the Pacific Alliance is currently the 6th largest economy in the world, after the United States, China, India, Japan and Germany. The Pacific Alliance member countries have a combined GDP that in 2013 is expected to top US$3 trillion.
The founding members of the Pacific Alliance are Mexico, Colombia, Peru and Chile, which have a combined population of 209 million and a per capita GDP of approximately US$ 14,690. The Pacific Alliance is the fastest growing bloc in the region, the size of its economy exceeds that of Brazil and in terms of per capita income, it is wealthier than Brazil.
The Pacific Alliance is a collaborative vision that has the potential to reshape Latin America. I do not criticize other developmental choices or trade policies enacted by particular nations. This is not a judgmental opinion of east vs. west or good versus bad. What I am analyzing is the path chosen by Mexico, Colombia, Peru and Chile. These four nations have committed themselves to a dynamic, new economic union. Even though these four countries are direct competitors in many aspects, they are reconfiguring the continent’s economic geography through their common commitments to free markets, intellectual property, openness to foreign investments, belief in free trade, understanding of fiscal stability and respect for the rule of law regarding policies, contracts and agreements. This is a step that goes beyond the Washington Consensus; this is what I call “The Pacific Consensus.”
The Pacific Consensus is a new creed adopted in a pragmatic way because – as many regional leaders have concluded – it is the best way to more quickly reach full development. It is a path that is pragmatic not political, forward-looking not historical. And a route to join the league of highly developed nations.
Unlike other nations on the continent which have made the choice to favor government –to –government agreements to attract foreign investments, the Pacific Alliance nations have shifted dramatically, towards a more competitive business environment that aims to become ever more transparent while abiding by free market principles.
A single example: last year, Chilean retail and supermarket giant Cencosud purchased the Colombian operations of Carrefour for US$2.6 billion. Both countries are members of the Pacific Alliance, where the business-to-business relationships are well established and business dealings are more transparent. From the time of the initial offer to the payment, the entire deal took approximately one week. Top officials of the Colombian government didn’t even know the negotiations were ongoing until it was nearly done. This is the international equivalent of 1-Click purchasing at Amazon.com
I can’t help but to compare the previous $2.6B transaction with what I recently read in Bloomberg News. According to Bloomberg, China Development Bank Corp lent the Venezuelan government an estimated $40 billion dollars over the past four years. That is nearly $1 billion a month. The loans will be repaid in oil. These agreements are at the heart of the loans-for-oil policy of the Chinese government. According to Bloomberg, Chinese state-owned companies including China Railway group also won more than $11 billion in infrastructure and supply contracts from Venezuela. Here we see a vastly different model for conducting business and attracting foreign capital.
We can’t speak about Latin America without understanding Brazil, the worlds’ 7th largest economy. With a population of nearly 200 million it is the 5th most populous nation on earth. Add in the 2014 World Cup, the 2016 Summer Olympics, and their status as the only Portuguese-speaking nation on the continent and you indeed have an independent island that tends to do things “THE BRAZILIAN WAY”. But Brazil for all its wonders and potential has a huge challenge. Many experts, inside and outside Brazil, are already warning that the economic miracle is slowing and stalling and warn about the consequences—for its growth and development—of the protectionist policies maintained by the country.
It should now be clear that I believe in The Pacific Alliance. The economic rules of the Pacific Alliance favor commercial and political agreements and treaties with the United States and those nations willing to play under transparent politics and policies. The openness of this Alliance is a historic movement in Latin America. This is the first time I have seen that having open markets and clear rules for investment has become a barrier to the old school ways of government-to-government business dealings. This very openness has created a new barrier; it has constructed a wall vs. foreign investments coming from countries less accustomed to playing with open and competitive rules for all parties.
This “invisible barrier” requires investors and businesses to earn their market share in a system of clear and equal “rules of engagement.” In the Pacific Alliance one should not expect insider deals, fast tracks on environmental permitting or VIP treatment, only growth opportunities.
Jorge Rosenblut is chairman of the board of Endesa Chile and former Under Secretary of the Presidency of Chile.