OBG talks to Rafael Roncagliolo, Minister of Foreign Affairs



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 Rafael Roncagliolo, Minister of Foreign Affairs

Interview: Rafael Roncagliolo

What steps have been taken to develop the goal of a multilateral foreign policy?

RAFAEL RONCAGLIOLO: This is an important moment for Latin America. This is evident when you see how the global economic crisis is affecting the world. Although we, too, are feeling the effects, we are in a better position to resist them. So it’s time not only for national development but for regional development and integration.

President Ollanta Humala expressed this interest for joint action to other leaders on his South American tour before taking the presidential oath. The Union of South American Nations (Unión de Naciones Suramericanas, UNASUR) and the Andean Community (Comunidad Andina, CAN) organised summits on the day of the president’s inauguration in which social inclusion was underlined. We helped create the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States and we will assume the presidency of UNASUR in the last quarter of 2012. We are also restructuring CAN. The 40-year-old goals of creating a Customs union and a common market cannot be achieved today. However, CAN is very important as a free trade area because trade between Andean countries has a high degree of added value and includes participation by small and medium-sized enterprises.

I have travelled to every South American country to amplify existing trade agreements, joint investments and regional trade – which represents less than 20% of all trade, but remains our best protection in the face of a global crisis. We negotiated a trade agreement with Venezuela and we are trying to improve trade terms with protectionist countries. In addition, we are forming the Pacific Alliance with Mexico, Colombia and Chile.

How will UNASUR gain a stronger voice in the world?

RONCAGLIOLO: The idea of Latin American integration is 200 years old and, today, UNASUR is its most dynamic manifestation. We have a Joint Security and Defence Council, which is very significant, considering previous agreements failed in the Malvinas War. We initiated the council of ministers of economy to plan strategies to confront the global crisis and we have education and health councils. We have also integrated road infrastructure, which is crucial, as it connects north and south, Atlantic and Pacific. This is very important for developing the region. We are planning a petrochemicals pole in the south of Peru, which could be connected to Bolivia, Brazil and even the River Plate basin.

In what way will foreign policy help achieve social transformation and poverty reduction?

RONCAGLIOLO: Foreign policy and internal policy are not separate things. President Humala has defined two focus points: economic growth and social inclusion. Our foreign policy is in line with these. Promoting growth includes diversifying economic relations, continued participation in the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum, which links us to the US and Asian countries, and free trade agreements with the EU. We also want these to have a positive effect on social inclusion. That’s why regional trade is so important – it helps small and medium-sized companies conquer new markets.

Social inclusion also relates to the 10% of our citizens living abroad. Their impact on the economy is huge, since their remittances are five times bigger than the amount we receive through international cooperation. We need to defend Peruvian expats since they face hostility and human rights abuses in some countries. We are currently signing agreements inside CAN and Mercosur to regularise their status. We are working towards similar agreements with other countries.

The contribution Peruvians living abroad make to the economies of foreign countries is significant. We are trying to develop international mechanisms so foreign investment and international cooperation schemes serve social inclusion. Even though exporting primary goods is important, it will not automatically produce development. We need to change our economic matrix. Our bilateral-agreements will bring in technology and get scholarships for Peruvians so they gain advanced training, helping improve their employment options.

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