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Article online: Foro Internacional

foro-internacional-coverA new article is now out in Spanish in Foro Internacional, which most consider Mexico’s top academic International Relations journal. My piece, “Coloso fragmentado: la agenda ‘interméstica’ y la política exterior latinoamericana,” is the first piece in the January issue. The English title would be roughly “A fragmented colossus: The ‘intermestic’ agenda and Latin American foreign policy.” The official text is in Spanish, but I have included links to both Spanish and English versions and abstracts below.

La versión del artículo en español se encuentra aquí.

An unofficial, pre-translation English-language version is available here.

Abstracts below the jump.

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Brexit and Latin America

What’s the impact of the British referendum on the Americas?
This morning, we awoke to the shocking news that UK voters have opted for leaving the European Union. Like many elections in today’s globalized world, the effects fall heavily on countries and people who had no say in the matter, at least electorally. The consequences will fall heaviest on Europeans in the UK (and UK residents in the EU) and on Europe generally. U.S. businesses and political leaders were clearly hoping for the UK to remain in the UK, and the pessimistic expectations are already clear in early trading on the markets.
But do the results matter for Latin America?
brexit-promo-master495The immediate impact of “Brexit” on Latin America is to create additional economic uncertainty in what is already a challenging environment. Many Latin American economies have been hit hard by falling commodity prices. In the near-term, the referendum results will exacerbate that. Market turmoil will continue to drive up the US dollar, increasing borrowing costs for countries that are already in the red.
For Latin American countries that have recently negotiated or are currently negotiating free trade agreements with the EU, the eventual absence of the UK reduces the value of those deals somewhat. Trade with the EU is very important to many Latin American economies. It accounts for about 15% of Argentina’s trade, nearly 20% of Brazil’s, 18% of Colombia’s. Though the figure is lower for Mexico, 11% of the country’s exports go to the EU (all figures from the WTO). It is a very important source of investment, too. To the extent that Brexit slows Europe’s economic recovery, it will hit Latin American export sectors that are already suffering.
Trade with the UK itself, however, is much less important. It generally accounts for only a tenth of the trade figures listed above. Some Latin American states may eventually seek separate agreements with the UK, but it is not likely to be a high priority. Certainly nothing can be arranged until the terms of the UK’s exit are clearer. A more immediate concern for Latin American governments will be securing the main European sources of investment through the EU. For most countries, that means Spain, the Netherlands, and Germany. It’s a bit of a different story for small economies of the Anglophone Caribbean, but not a more positive one given the general turmoil and possible reduction in market access. The UK is not the investment powerhouse that it once was in Latin America, when the island nation was a major force in the continent’s railway, shipping, and mining sectors. Therefore, the economic effects of Brexit are likely to be serious, but indirect–filtered through the EU, commodity prices, and the value of the dollar.
Politically, the immediate response in Latin America seems to be disbelief. The continent has long idealized and struggled for greater integration (though with many disagreements about what that should mean). Brexit flies in the face of that. Here is a regional organization that, for many legitimate gripes, on the whole really works to promote economic and social wellbeing, and has a record of enhancing peace and human rights. That has long been at least a rhetorical aspiration for many in the hemisphere, and so it is surprising to see it cast aside, I think. (At least it is for me.) That said, the region is likely to be much more consumed by the positive news of the ceasefire in Colombia.
Perhaps even more important are the echoes of the Leave campaign’s tenor for Latin Americans. Given the experiences of many Latin Americans living in the United States, there is little sympathy for the anti-immigrant sentiments that fueled much of the Leave campaign. In short, I don’t see many silver linings for Latin America from a British departure. It reduces British influence in Latin America, too, but cutting it out of EU programs and by weakening the UK’s appeal and “soft power.”
2016-06-24
In the United States, the political picture is more mixed. Certainly, most of the business and political establishment was hoping for decisive Remain, as President Obama clearly stated. The United States has a strong interest in both a more integrated UK and in a more liberal EU. Both of those are now under severe threat, and on the whole that is bad news for U.S. companies. It also complicates U.S. security relationships, though there will be an emphasis on maintaining those. In terms of public opinion, there is a sector of the U.S. electorate that has long been skeptical of international organizations and that will celebrate Brexit. The messages of the Leave campaign will have resonated with many Tea Party supporters in the United States, which shared similar emphases on stopping immigration and purging supposedly unresponsive and unaccountable politicians and bureaucrats. The reception of the results of the referendum will largely mirror the political divisions that have been so evident during the U.S. presidential campaign.

Looking forward to LASA 2016, NYC

cfnxppmumaet4jfThe 2016 Latin American Studies Association conference is right around the corner, and I am looking forward to participating. This year, I will be giving a paper called “The United States and Latin America Decline of power or decline in interest?” on a panel on Sunday at 2:30. The panel, organized by Laura MacDonald of Carleton, is called “The Role of External Actors in Post-Hegemonic Latin America.” My paper (abstract below) sort of starts with asking, “how ‘post-hegemonic’ is the Western Hemisphere?” I am also discussant on a panel Sunday evening on “Contentious political issues in contemporary inter-American affairs: from (non)insurgency to international security and trade policymaking,” which includes my friend and superb young scholar Mariano Bertucci of Tulane.

Abstract: It is commonly asserted that the United States no longer holds the dominant position it once did in Latin America. This decline is credited to several factors: a global decline in U.S. power, lower levels of U.S. attention to the region, the entrance of new extra-hemispheric challengers, and more “assertive” Latin American leaders. This paper seeks to test these claims of U.S. decline. First, using a variety of metrics, it will ask whether U.S. power in the hemisphere has declined relative to regional and extra-regional actors. It assesses recent, frequently cited U.S. struggles to exert influence Latin America—that is, relational power—in comparison to the more distant past. The paper concludes that U.S. decline has too often been assumed instead of demonstrated, that when evidence has been provided it has often been anecdotal, and that this evidence actually demonstrates significant continuities. U.S. decline, both relative to extra-hemispheric powers and in regards to states within the region has been overstated, in part because of a tendency to exaggerate U.S. power in the past, a focus on changes, and an underestimation of the continued depth of U.S. military, economic, structural, and ideational power in the region. There have been real changes in the geographic concentration and nature of U.S. power, as well as in the economic role of China. However, these changes are often outweighed by the continuities of relationships that are still defined by asymmetry.

What I’m reading: La conexión México – La Habana – Washington

Homero Campa, La conexión México – La Habana – Washington: Una controvertida relación trilateral, Editorial Planeta Mexicana, 2014

On December 15, 2014, I presented a paper in Havana at a “series of conversations” on U.S.-Cuban relations. That paper looked at the role of Panama, host of the April 2015 Summit of the Americas, as a potential facilitator of U.S.-Cuban dialogue. If I had subbed in Canada or the Vatican for Panama, I would have looked much smarter two days later when, to our surprise, Presidents Obama and Castro announced a prisoner exchange and move to re-establish relations.

Homero Campa, whose interesting book on the role of Mexico as a sometimes interlocutor between the U.S. and Cuba came out in 2014, might feel similarly unlucky. As it turned out, despite their historic role between the United States and Cuba, Mexican diplomats had no hand in last year’s secret negotiations, which led to today’s big announcement of the opening on embassies in Havana and Washington. Read differently, Campa’s book is a bit more prescient than my paper (though trust me, I can suggest a more prescient reading of my paper, if you’d like!). Mexico’s lack of involvement—and by all accounts, Mexicans were surprised by the announcements—fits with the larger pattern of its declining role as a broker between the United States and Cuba. (more…)

Available for pre-order: Latin America Confronts the United States

Latin America Confronts the United States

A new book on U.S.-Latin American relations, coming in November 2015 from Cambridge University Press.

My first book, Latin America Confronts the United States: Asymmetry and Influence is now available for pre-order through Cambridge University Press. It has a cover design, too! The book is due out in November–so why not do your holiday shopping now? (Don’t all families do hard-cover academic book exchanges?)

Here is the summary from Cambridge:

“Latin America Confronts the United States offers a new perspective on US-Latin America relations. Drawing on research in six countries, the book examines how Latin American leaders are able to overcome power asymmetries to influence US foreign policy. The book provides in-depth explorations of key moments in post-World War II inter-American relations – foreign economic policy before the Alliance for Progress, the negotiation of the Panama Canal Treaties, the expansion of trade through NAFTA, and the growth of counternarcotics in Plan Colombia. The new evidence challenges earlier, US-centric explanations of these momentous events. Though differences in power were fundamental to each of these cases, relative weakness did not prevent Latin American leaders from aggressively pursuing their interests vis-à-vis the United States. Drawing on studies of foreign policy and international relations, the book examines how Latin American leaders achieved this influence – and why they sometimes failed.”