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Free Trade Por Favor
Lefty Meltdown Leads Latin Revival

Are we about to witness a big power shift in Latin America?

Venezuela, Brazil and Argentina are languishing in differing shades of turmoil, steadily losing ground to regional underdogs. The Pacific Alliance, an historic trade agreement between Mexico, Peru, Chile, and Colombia (and coming soon: Costa Rica), has the potential to recolor Latin America’s economic map and introduce some new regional powerhouses to the world stage. As The Atlantic points out, not all the credit goes to the underdogs:

One reason the Pacific Alliance may succeed is the increasingly urgent need to transcend the chronic failure to link Latin America’s economies.

The Alliance would never have become a priority for its four members if Brazil had offered a credible plan to further economic integration with its most trade-oriented Latin American neighbors. Or if Hugo Chávez had been less successful in making free trade a bad word. The late Venezuelan president prioritized political over economic integration, and he was not shy about using his country’s oil to scuttle “neoliberal free trade agreements.” The United States, meanwhile, was too distracted by emergencies abroad and hobbled by gridlocked politics at home to launch initiatives capable of inspiring Latin American leaders.

The newly formed bloc is made up of Latin America’s fastest growing economies. These states boast the region’s most competitive, business-friendly economies and the lowest inflation rates. Current transactions between these countries  represent a mere 4 percent of their total trade; the potential for increased financial cooperation is immense. They have already eliminated 92 percent of trade tariffs.

The Latin Lefties are none too pleased with the new arrangement. Bolivian President Evo Morales called the alliance a Washington-led conspiracy. Brazil’s Lula and Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa decried the Alliance as a neoliberal takeover.

But while these leaders sulk, their countries continue to disintegrate. Mass unrest continues to roil Venezuela; protestors are fed up with government corruption, media censorship, and a failing economy. An Argentinian inflation crisis threatens economic disaster. Brazil, which the WSJ called a “wilting giant”, faces yet another year of economic contraction. On top of that, the country’s 2014 World Cup preparations are foundering and civil unrest is growing more belligerent (and then there’s Brazil’s upcoming summer Olympics preparation to worry about).

The Pacific Alliance offers a glimmer of hope for a Latin revival. For all their leaders’ buoyant rhetoric and revolutionary zeal, the region’s past powerhouses have failed to deliver in many ways. If the Pacific Alliance is the start of something fruitful, it would be another nail in the Bolivarians’s coffin.

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  • PKCasimir

    The country is Colombia, not Columbia. Columbia is a University and the gem of the ocean.

    • Andrew Allison

      Rigorous deployment of the cat-o’-nine-tails is clearly in order.

  • Andrew Allison

    This appears to me to be rather shallow thinking. The governments of Mexico, Peru, Chile and Colombia are also, in varying degrees, socialist. Could the Pacific Alliance not be interpreted as an alliance of not-yet-failed socialist states?

    • theCardinal

      by that definition most if not all nations could also be considered socialist. what the nations of the Pacific Alliance have is (by LatAm standards) stable currency, a relatively open economy, a non-statist development model an appreciation for free trade. Most countries in LatAm lean left, the success of these states is critical in drawing converts to their vision for LatAm and jettisoning the repeatedly tried and failed socialist/populist hodge podge grab bag that has ruined them.

  • Jacksonian_Libertarian

    I think Honduras deserves to be part of the economic block, they demonstrated their commitment to Democracy by upholding their constitution in the face of a Presidential power grab by a Chavez protege. I would like to see them rewarded for their support for the “rule of law”.

    • Cheers to that but whether envelopment in the proposed arrangement will be a reward rather than a punishment it…. unclear at the least.

  • pabarge

    Before you read too much of this guy’s writings, please take note that Walter Russell Mead voted for Barack Obama.

    • Tari

      I’m guessing he regrets.

    • And you’ve never made mistakes? Hell, I voted for Carter. (But not Obama. I learn from my mistakes…)

      • Andrew Allison

        What about Bill Clinton? [/grin]

        • Nope. Seemed like a nice guy, but didn’t think he’d manage.

          Hell, I’d rather see him in office again than Obama. At least Clinton understood the country had to be functional when he left office. Obama just doesn’t seem to care about the long-term effects of anything he does.

          • Andrew Allison

            I’ve begun to seriously doubt that “Obama just doesn’t seem to care about the long-term effects of anything he does.”

    • Andrew Allison

      We all make mistakes!

    • Jim__L

      If I recall correctly, he didn’t, in 2012 at least.

  • seethelunatic

    As Brazil becomes Argentina, Argentina becomes Venezuela, and Venezuela becomes Zimbabwe, it’s nice to see some countries in Latin America are relatively sane.

  • John Tyler

    There will never, ever be a lefty meltdown in Latin America. EVERYBODY has seen how leftist governments have totally destroyed nations ever since 1917. Yet, the lefty macho Caudillos still make their appearance in Latin America knowing full well the outcome.
    So why do they pursue this course?
    Hint ; check out the Swiss Bank accounts of these “populist” leaders “of the descamisados.”

  • MrJest

    “The Pacific Alliance, an historic trade agreement”…

    Please, for the love of God, STOP using “an” in front of “history”, “historic”, etc. Unless you are speaking with a thick Cockney accent and habitually drop the “H” sound, “an” is entirely inappropriate. It is reserved exclusively for words that start with vowels, which “H” most certainly is not. Grrrrrrr…..

    • Andrew Allison

      “An” is always inappropriate in front of a word beginning with “h”, regardless of accent, unless it is a personal pronoun! Even a horse’s arse should agree. A history of . . . whatever would confirm this as would, no doubt, a hypothetical Mrs TT. An hysteric (get it?) might disagree.

      • MrJest

        I’ll give a pass to it in speech, *provided* the speaker has an accent that drops the “H” sound… it’s difficult and disturbing for a native English speaker to put “A” in front of a vowel sound while speaking.

        I do, however, cringe when a speaker who clearly pronounces the “H” uses it (heard on radio or TV news from time to time, presumably from newscasters who are trying and failing miserably to make themselves sound more “educated”).

        Never, ever, in writing, agreed. 🙂

        • Andrew Allison

          Sorry, but no. I’m Andrew the (at least) Third I am, Andrew I am. Which makes me an ‘istoric throwback to an ‘istorical period when English was English [/grin]. The pronoun preceding a word beginning with “h” has personality.

      • Enemy Leopard

        Although I’m repeating my comment above: “an hour” is correct.

    • Enemy Leopard

      The use of “an” by Americans before “history” or “historic” also boggles my mind; it’s more or less always incorrect, as the writer or speaker would certainly pronounce the “h.” It’s fake sophistication that reveals more about the speaker than he or she realizes. But I have to dispute your claim that it’s reserved exclusively for words that start with vowels. It’s not the first letter of the subsequent word that matters; it’s the sound of that word when spoken. For example:

      “an umbrella”
      “a unicorn”
      “an hour”
      “a historic”

      Those are all correct in modern American English; the alternatives are incorrect. In other words, it’s used when the subsequent word starts with a vowel sound, not necessarily a vowel.

      • MrJest

        You are correct; I should have written “vowel sound”. Writing is, of course, simply a symbology of sound. It’s the flow (or stumbling, if done incorrectly) of vocal sound that creates the difference between “a” and “an”, dependent on the following sound that determines the proper one to use. 🙂

  • David Gillies

    There’s a story in La Nación (up-market Costa Rican daily) about the local equivalent of the Chamber of Commerce urging the centre-left President-presumptive Luis Guillermo Solis to tread carefully on the Pacific Alliance because of its impact on tariffs (they will go to zero among participating countries.) Thus we see again the truth of Adam Smith’s dictum: “People of the same trade seldom meet together, even for merriment and
    diversion, but the conversation ends in a conspiracy against the public,
    or in some contrivance to raise prices.” The threat to free trade in Latin America is not all from the hard Left; the corporatists aren’t altogether keen on it either.

  • Lyle Petersen

    It’s sad to see Ecuador on the Chavista side of things. It wasn’t so long ago they were actually a sane country.

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