Archive for the ‘Foreign Policy’ Category

30
May

The region is falling in behind two alternative blocks: the market-led Pacific Alliance and the more statist Mercosur

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On May 23rd in the Colombian city of Cali the presidents of four Latin American countries—Chile, Colombia, Mexico and Peru—will sign an agreement removing tariffs on 90% of their merchandise trade. They will also agree on a timetable of no more than seven years for eliminating tariffs on the remaining 10%. They have already removed visa requirements for each other’s citizens and will proclaim their aspiration to move swiftly towards setting up a common market.

The Pacific Alliance, as the group calls itself, is “the most exciting thing going on in Latin America today”, according to Felipe Larraín, Chile’s finance minister. Some outsiders think so, too. Costa Rica and Panama want to join; Canada’s prime minister, Stephen Harper, and his Spanish counterpart, Mariano Rajoy, have said they will attend the Cali meeting as observers.

Behind the excitement is the sense that the Pacific Alliance is a hard-nosed business deal, rather than the usual gassy rhetoric of Latin American summitry. Under the leftist governments that rule in much of South America, there has been plenty of talk of regional integration, but precious little practice of it. Intra-regional trade makes up just 27% of total trade in South and Central America, compared with 63% in the European Union and 52% in Asia.

The Pacific Alliance aspires to change that. “It is based on affinity, rather than proximity,” says José Antonio García Belaunde, a former Peruvian foreign minister who was instrumental in launching the group in 2011. “It’s integration with those who are capable of doing it.” Read more…

As published in www.economist.com on May 18, 2013 (The Economist – Print Edition).

29
May

Middlepowerism & Continuity in South Korean Foreign Policy: The way Seoul defines its middle-power status could offer the best insight into its policy direction.

By Jeffrey Robertson

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On coming to power, every South Korean presidential administration seeks to differentiate itself from those that went before. There are no exceptions. Administrations with identical party roots will distinguish themselves by creating new administrative structures, rebranding policy and reinventing rhetoric. This gives academics plenty to write about when they pen the all important one-hundred day reviews. But in the case of a state as dynamic as South Korea, they may be missing the point. It is not change that is significant, but rather continuity.

Elements of change in the foreign policy of the administration of President Park Geun-hye are clear. First, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade (MOFAT) was divested of its responsibility for international trade negotiations and launched under a new name, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA). Second, policies blending both deterrence and reconciliation in relations with North Korea, and policies aimed at strengthening Northeast Asian cooperation have been rebranded under a new policy platform, the Northeast Asian Peace and Cooperation Initiative. Finally, the rhetoric to support policy has been reinvented. Before the Park administration’s term is up, we will hear much more of the terms “trustpolitik,” “trust building” and “trust diplomacy.”

Elements of change will receive extensive attention as academics and commentators start to review the Park administration’s foreign policy. Focusing on the first hundred days of any administration to attain insight into the trajectory of foreign policy is counterintuitive. With the current administration it may even be foolish. With difficult parliamentary confirmation hearings; challenges in securing passage of the administrative reorganization; and the necessity of immediately focusing on North Korean issues, the current administration has had a slow start.

Elements of continuity may tell us much more about South Korea’s foreign policy trajectory. Chief amongst these is middlepowerism.  Read more…

Jeffrey Robertson is a Visiting Professor at the Korea Development Institute (KDI) School of Public Policy and Management.

As published by The Diplomat on May 29, 2013.

28
May

By Peter Bergen

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In the past few weeks, we’ve seen a British soldier hacked to death with a meat cleaver on the streets of London and bombers blowing up spectators at the Boston Marathon.

On the surface, terrorism is alive and well.

So how should the United States react to these continuing threats?

For the first time on Thursday, President Obama laid out the full scope of his proposed counterterrorism strategy, and it boiled down to this: George W. Bush’s endless war on terror is over.

And that’s appropriate, since the enemy Bush went to war with after September 11 has largely been defeated.

Obama’s speech at the National Defense University in Washington was designed to lay the political groundwork to wind down America’s longest war, the war that began when al Qaeda destroyed the World Trade Center and a wing of the Pentagon 12 years ago.

Thursday’s speech was the first time Obama had delivered an overarching framework for how to conceptualize the conflict that has defined U.S. national security policy since 9/11.

Other speeches by Obama have focused on aspects of that conflict, such as Guantanamo and the Afghan war. But no speech has made such an expansive examination of the war against al Qaeda and its allies in all its manifestations, from drone strikes to detention policies to a clear-eyed assessment of the scope of the threats posed by al Qaeda and its affiliates, as well as by those “homegrown” extremists who attacked the Boston Marathon in April.

Much of the coverage of the speech has centered on the measures the president outlined to impose greater constraints on CIA drone strikes and to try to hasten the eventual closing of Guantanamo. Read more…

Peter Bergen is CNN’s national security analyst, a director at the New America Foundation and the author of “Manhunt: The Ten-Year Search for bin Laden — From 9/11 to Abbottabad,” the basis for the HBO documentary “Manhunt”.

As published in www.cnn.com on May 26, 2013

23
May

No, America hasn’t “lost” Iraq. But a dangerous realpolitik is the new normal in Baghdad.

BY RAMZY MARDINI

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry Makes Surprise Visit

When U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry met with Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki in March on the 10th anniversary of the U.S. invasion of Iraq, there was little doubt that he would raise the issue of Iranian flyovers to Syria, which the United States suspects are being used to funnel weapons to the Syrian regime. Convinced that external support gives Syrian President Bashar al-Assad false confidence that he can prevail over rebel forces, Barack Obama’s administration has repeatedly tried — and failed — to persuade Maliki to deny Iran Iraqi airspace. (In exchange for halting the flights, Kerry offered Iraq a role in any international negotiations about a post-Assad Syria.)

The Iraqi prime minister’s apparent intransigence has lent credence to the idea that the United States has somehow “lost” Iraq. A more accurate characterization would be that, following the end of the U.S. occupation in 2011, Iraq is simply reasserting its regional role — bridging external realities with internal interests.

The new Iraq is no longer just an observer or victim of the whims of regional gamesmanship; it is now a player in that game. But as the recent surge in sectarian violence has demonstrated, domestic concerns are never far from the surface — and they bear directly on the country’s foreign-policy calculus.

In April, deadly clashes between government forces and demonstrators in the Sunni city of Hawija set off a chain reaction of retaliatory attacks across Iraq that threaten to plunge the country into the kind of sectarian war it experienced between 2005 and 2007. The month of April was the deadliest since June 2008, with 712 Iraqis killed, according to the U.N. Assistance Mission for Iraq. Just this past week, more than 200 people were killed, as Shitte and Sunni neighborhoods and places of worship were targeted in a cycle of sectarian violence reminiscent of the civil war period. Today, the scenario of two, adjacent civil wars along sectarian lines is becoming a growing reality. Read more…

As published in www.foreignpolicy.com on May 20, 2013.

22
May

Lord Christopher Patten, chairman of the BBC Trust and Chancellor of the University of Oxford, is interviewed by Dr. Arantza de Areilza, Dean of IE School of International Relations, on foreign policy of the European Union and the United Kingdom.

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