SANTIAGO – The participants came, European guests were greeted, speeches were delivered, toasts made, and, in the end, the annual meeting of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC) was hailed as a success. But what remained the morning after was the clear sense of a region that is deeply divided, missing a common purpose, and, above all, lacking leadership.
First, the good news: the four main countries on the Pacific Rim – Mexico, Colombia, Peru and Chile – took important steps to deepen their trade-and-integration agreement. By the end of this year, 90% of all trade within the bloc will be tariff-free. Costa Rica asked to join, and Japan was accepted as an observer. This Pacific Alliance, with nearly 40% of Latin American GDP and $500 billion in annual exports, has the potential to become a driving force for economic growth in the region.