Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Living in Peru: Peruvian foreign policy will not change under next president

"Peruvian Foreign policy will not change under next President"
W. Alejandro Sanchez
Living in Peru
March 21, 2016
Originally published: http://www.peruthisweek.com/blogs-foreign-policy-elections-opinion-109088

The April 10 elections in Peru will not significantly alter the foreign policy of the Andean state, regardless of which candidate wins the presidency or which party (or coalition of parties) gains control of congress. Peruvian foreign policy for the past couple of decades has been fairly predictable and these elections will most likely not bring about major surprises.
Peru’s relations with the rest of the world are not a major issue to the Peruvian electorate; the hot topics of this election are improving internal security and the economy. Obviously, the latter issue has a lot to do with international commerce as the cornerstone of Peru’s growing economy over the past two decades has been the export of its natural resources (such as natural gas, minerals, oil and agricultural goods). Hence, it comes as no surprise that the main candidates have made similar promises, namely to maintain the current trade model. This will include cementing Peru’s role in the Pacific Alliance, a regional free trade bloc (along with Chile, Colombia and Mexico) as well as pushing for new free trade agreements, probably with India and Turkey. Additionally, the next congress will likely ratify the Trans Pacific Partnership which will open Asia Pacific markets to Peruvian goods.
When it comes to foreign policy itself, Peru is not a Latin American powerhouse, and it enjoys cordial relations with most of its neighbors. The only outstanding issue may be the future of the territorial dispute with Chile. Lima already had some success in a maritime dispute with its Southern neighbor via the 2014 ruling by the International Court of Justice (ICJ). Hence, the next head of state may see the ICJ as an option to solve this dispute as well.
Ultimately, while the Andean nation has witnessed its fair share of internal turmoil over the past decades, its foreign policy has remained generally constant. Arguably, Peru’s internal problems, such as terrorism in the 1980s or political instability in the 1990s due to the Fujimori dictatorship, did not allow the Andean country to focus on the outside world. Nevertheless, some foreign policy stances have been constant and will remain so. For example, Lima has been a close ally of Washington, and this will not change, particularly as the Peruvian government and security forces will look for U.S. support to combat drug trafficking.
It is worth noting that of the remaining presidential candidates, only a few have an extreme-left ideology. In theory, if one of them is elected, we could see a radical foreign policy change. This is already happening in Argentina, as new President Mauricio Macri is approaching Washington; this is an almost 180 degree turn when compared to the foreign policy of his predecessor, President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, who was known to be a close friend of Russian President Vladimir Putin. As for Peru, in the 2006 elections then-candidate Ollanta Humala was defeated, in part, because he was regarded as a close friend of the late President Hugo Chávez of Venezuela and a follower of his socialist ideology. Nevertheless, the “extreme left” candidates are fairly down on the polls so unless a major surprise occurs in April, Peru’s relations with the global powers will generally remain unaltered. (The next head of state will likely continue to purchase Russian military equipment, which the Peruvian military is used to utilizing, but we will not see Russian bombers landing in Peru à la Venezuela in 2013).
On a personal note, I would like to see Peruvian presidential candidates address foreign policy. International commerce is an obvious issue, but there are other parts of the country’s foreign policy that should be discussed, such as the future of the Andean Community (which is headquartered in Lima), having a Peruvian citizen elected to head a major international organization (like UNASUR), the significance of Peru’s recent ratification of the Arms Trade Treaty or the future role of the Peruvian military in UN peacekeeping missions.
For over a decade, Peru has enjoyed significant economic growth. Unfortunately, this has not prompted Lima to have a more ambitious foreign policy – coincidentally, I discuss the steps that the Andean country can take to be more influential in regional geopolitics in a working paper for the Argentine think tank Centro Argentino de Estudios Internacionales entitled, Pax Inca: Why Peru is not a Regional Powerhouse in Latin America.
Hopefully Peru’s next president, whoever he or she may be, will be interested in boosting the country’s foreign policy.
You can follow W. Alejandro on Twiter @W_Alex_Sanchez

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