Ana Maria Sanchez Vargas, Minister of Foreign Affairs: Interview

Ana Maria Sanchez Vargas, Minister of Foreign Affairs

Interview: Ana Maria Sanchez Vargas

How can the Pacific Alliance (PA) and Mercosur enhance cooperation, and how does the PA’s new legal framework relate to the Andean Community (Comunidad Andina, CAN)?

ANA MARIA SANCHEZ VARGAS: Although the PA and Mercosur differ in terms of the scope of free trade, commercial ties between them are substantial. Nearly 40% of Peru’s regional trade takes place with Mercosur. Both integration processes also work jointly in deepening freedom of movement for persons. Mercosur has made significant progress through its residence agreement, which has also been adopted by three PA members.

The PA and CAN both have integration schemes that encompass free-trade zones and allow its members to negotiate trade agreements with third countries. According to the PA’s framework agreement, decisions made by its Council of Ministers, as well as all adopted accords, do not replace or modify pre-existing economic, trade or integration agreements reached at bilateral, regional or multilateral levels. Additionally, CAN’s regulations allow its country members to reach trade agreements with third parties while maintaining the Andean legal system.

What are the main benefits of opening shared PA embassies in Africa and Asia?

SANCHEZ: First, joint embassies allow our diplomatic officials to work in capital cities in which we have not yet established national offices. Second, they add value to the PA as a whole by making us more visible abroad, and by allowing our chiefs of mission to develop joint strategies in overseas countries to promote cooperation, tourism, and our cultural image. Third, our migrant communities in countries where we have consular cooperation agreements can benefit from the support and protection provided by PA partners, as was recently shown after the earthquake in Nepal, when The Mexican embassy at Kathmandu was thankfully able to provide much-needed assistance. From a political viewpoint, shared embassies demonstrate the unity and mutual trust that binds the PA together. They can help our countries to arrive at common positions regarding foreign policy themes. Lastly, from a financial viewpoint, having joint embassies enables us to share expenses and benefit from common installations.

What strategies are being put in place to strengthen diplomatic ties with Asian nations?

SANCHEZ: Our foreign ministry is currently taking steps to turn Peru into a regional emerging power with special emphasis on the Asia Pacific region. In 2012 Peru and South Korea decided to raise diplomatic ties to a Comprehensive Strategic Partnership (CSP), deepening bilateral cooperation in all fields, including defence and security. In 2013, Presidents Humala and Xi Jinping decided to raise Peruvian-Chinese relations to the level of a CSP and have since signed 28 cooperation agreements to expand and diversify bilateral links, including an agreement to begin studies, together with Brazil, to determine the feasibility of a Peru-Brazil transcontinental railway, and an economic agreement to establish a strategic dialogue to improve Peru’s productive capacity.

We signed a bilateral investment treaty with Japan in 2009 and an economic partnership agreement in 2012. We have also reached an agreement with India to create a joint commission of both foreign ministries to promote, strengthen, and diversify bilateral relations, and we are engaged in joint feasibility studies to negotiate a bilateral free trade agreement, the first between India and a Latin American country. Peru has also reinforced its presence in South-east Asia by opening a shared embassy with Colombia in Vietnam, and is encouraging rapprochements between ASEAN and the PA for trade purposes, increased cooperation in education, science and technology, disaster prevention, and integration into global value chains.

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