In recent decades, the signing of free trade agreements (FTA) and the creation of regional organizations have become common in Latin America. However, little is know about the support these foreign policy instruments (FPI) have among Latin American parliaments; at the end of the day, the incorporation to ALBA, or the signing of a new FTA, either bilateral or multilateral, has to pass a legislative vote.
In the paper Free Trade Agreements and Regional Alliances. Support from Latin American Legislators published published in vol. 62 no. 1 of the Revista Brasileira de Política Internacional (2019), researchers find that the key predictors vis-à-vis these four FPIs are ideological-programmatic positions and trustworthiness towards foreign governments, namely Russia and China. Using data from the Latin American Elites Database from the University of Salamanca, which gathers surveys to legislators conducted via personal interviews with structured questionnaires, researchers identify this group of main variables. Currently data on these four FPIs is available since 2014 in Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Honduras, Panama, El Salvador, Mexico, Bolivia, Uruguay, Dominican Republic, Guatemala and Venezuela.
The article draws from literature that identifies three stages in Latin American integration (developmentalist, open integration and post-neoliberal) and divides the region in three blocks (revisionist, open integration and antisystemic). FTA with both US and EU, together with Pacific Alliance represent the open integration approach, whereas ALBA is the representative of the anti-systemic axis par excellence.
The paper firstly compares support on the aggregate level, among parliaments. At first sight, it is clear that some of the statements by the literature do not stand, due to the different compositions of the Parliaments (i.e. Venezuela since 2015). This is the reason why attention should be paid at the individual level.
Therefore, after controlling for country and sociodemographic effects, the paper finds that the main predictors are Left-Right and State-Market positions, along with trustworthiness vis-à-vis Russian and Chinese governments. Interestingly, the latter affects not negatively but positively to FTA with the US and EU, meaning legislators do not see China as a rival or substitute for traditional powers, but as another complementary partner. Russia, on the contrary, confirms traditional hypotheses and hinders FTAs and stimulates ALBA at the level of attitudes. One final finding is the importance of the government-opposition logic. Legislators self-declared to belong to the opposition show significant higher support for FTA with US and lower for ALBA.
This, together with the important of national divides (Left-Right and State-Market) and opinions about foreign governments proves, first and foremost, the ideological bias of international Latin American relations; secondly, it proves the influence of external actors when it comes to the design of regional alliances, even with one genuinely Latin American such as ALBA.
The paper concludes that international relations in Latin America are, so far, far from consensus. As long as attitudes toward Asian powers, State-Market or Left-Right determine foreign policy, there is little hope for stable organizations or lasting free trade agreements. Nevertheless, this is a first step in the analysis of legislators’ attitudes in the field of international relations. Future research should contemplate more organizations, and the evolution of legislators’ opinions, parallel to the inclusion of new countries, in order to better understand the reasons for the successes and failures of FPIs in Latin America
Read the article
Bohigues, Asbel, & Rivas, José Manuel. (2019). Free trade agreements and regional alliances: support from Latin American legislators. Revista Brasileira de Política Internacional, 62(1), e001. Epub March 14, 2019.https://dx.doi.org/10.1590/0034-7329201900101
Asbel Bohigues – PhD candidate in Political Science at the University of Salamanca (USAL), E-mail: email@example.com
José Manuel Rivas – PhD in Political Science at the University of Salamanca (USAL), E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org