Chatam House
Is non-alignment possible for Latin America?

The position of “active non-aligment” could be a way forward for Latin America?

Chatam House, the British influential think tank, released an article analyzing Latin America's foreign policies in the new world order. The international system is no longer bipolar but has become increasingly multipolar since the fall of the Berlin Wall. Today, alliances are flexible and political and economic loyalties are governed more by pragmatism than ideology. Some prominent persons from the region (such as the former Chilean ambassador Jorge Heine and political experts such as Carlos Fortín and Carlos Ominami) argue how and why Latin America should avoid being caught between the growing competition between China and the United States advocating for an active positioning of Non-Alignment going forward.

Main takeaways from the article:

  • The waning interest of the United States and the rise of China: Latin America has spent most of the 20th century under US hegemony. Since 2000, China has increased its investments in commodities and, more recently, in other sectors such as infrastructure throughout Latin America, becoming the most important or second most important trading partner for many Latin American countries, surpassing the United States and the European Union (EU).

  • The idea of active non-alignment: The war in Ukraine, energy-related geopolitics, technological clashes over issues such as microprocessor production and control of communications markets are driving Washington and Beijing to try to win allies and alienate the adversary. Pros and cons of non-alignment: 

    • This position requires Latin American states to explore and deepen relations with others, not just Europe but, for instance, African countries. Active non-alignment could dilute regional coherence to negotiate primarily with the US, China and Europe on issues such as international trade rules, the relationship between global economic governance and national autonomy, and between foreign investment and technology transfer and there is a risk of becoming further locked into natural resource-based production.

    • There are also opportunities - non-dependence on the US and a broader set of close global economic and diplomatic relations can help create the necessary platforms to address modern global threats such as future pandemics, climate change, nuclear proliferation and regional conflicts, including transnational crime.

  • What is the current situation? Most Latin American countries maintain their traditional relationship with the US and Europe, while pursuing agreements with China, in an exercise of flexible pragmatism. But this formula may become complex if tensions between the US and China intensify, and consequently pressures to align with one or the other over technology, investment and lending disputes push Latin American countries to face the challenge of competing in the strategic framework of regional integration.

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