News from the SECO / WTI Academic Cooperation Project
“The Pacific Alliance in a World of Preferential Trade Agreements – Lessons in Comparative Regionalism” was the title of an international conference held on November 19 and 20 at the Universidad Externado, Bogotá, Colombia. The event was co-hosted by the WTI, Universidad Externado, and SECO project partners Pontifical Catholic University of Peru (PUCP) and University of Chile (U. Chile).
The conference was open to scholars, practitioners and officials from public, regional and international organisations interested in a critical analysis of the Pacific Alliance. With the objective of presenting a critical and scholarly reading of latest developments in Pacific Alliance integration efforts, English was the language of the papers presented and of the conference proceedings that will be edited and published next year in a book that the WTI’s Pierre Sauvé and Rodrigo Polanco will co-edit alongside Externado’s Jose-Manuel Alvarez.
Jose Manuel Álvarez of U. Externado opened the conference by recalling the importance of this activity as the first product of a closer collaboration with WTI after the signature of an MOU last year.
In his remarks, Pierre Sauvé, the WTI’s Director of External Programmes and Academic Partnerships, praised the enlightened sponsorship given by the Swiss State Secretariat for Economic Affairs (SECO) and its interest in academic diplomacy, which allowed the participation of PUCP and U. Chile, as well selected keynote speakers, in the conference.
On behalf of SECO, Christian Sieber commended both the WTI and U. Externado for the organisation of the conference and welcomed the staging of similar knowledge sharing activities in the future. Other opening remarks were given by Lorena Rivera (Ministry of Trade, Industry and Tourism of Colombia – MTIT) and Ambassador Ricardo Navarrete (Chile).
The programme featured contributions from scholars and practitioners drawn from various disciplines, including law, political science and economics and organized around three core themes addressing the institutional, substantive and developmental dimensions of the Pacific Alliance’s integration trajectory.
From the WTI, presentations were made by Pierre Sauvé, Rodrigo Polanco, Carolina Palma, Víctor Saco as well as by MILE alumni Rodrigo Corredor and Maria del Carmen Vasquez.
Other presentations came from U. Externado, PUCP, U. Chile, the Inter-American Development Bank (IADB),the University of Melbourne, the International Centre for Trade and Sustainable Development (ICTSD), Universidad EAFIT (Colombia), University of Perpignan Via Domita (UPVD, France), Universidad Centroamericana (Nicaragua), Munich Intellectual Property Law Center, MTIT, Universidad Panamericana (Mexico), University of Miami, Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC), University of Costa Rica, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), Bocconi University and Universidad de La Sabana, Chía (Colombia).
The conference ended with a roundtable discussion. A keynote presentation by Dr Craig VanGrasstek from the Harvard Kennedy School, serving as conference rapporteur, was followed by interventions from representatives of the Pacific Alliance Member countries: Ambassador Arnulfo Valdivia Machuca (Mexico) and Minister-Counsellor Ricardo Rojas (Chile).
The idea of promoting continued scholarship in comparative regionalism was well received and plans are already afoot to organise a series of follow-up conferences whose staging could be rotated among participating universities from the four Pacific Alliance member countries.