Foreign policy does not have an autonomous purpose, but is a substantive component of any development strategy. The type of external openness that has characterised our country in the last forty years has been consistent with the productive model of natural resource exports and functional to the existence of profit in the social area, such as education, health and welfare. This is what needs to be changed.
By Roberto Pizarro and Luis Herrera
Indeed, development has been confused with growth and the export of raw materials. And, unlike in Asian countries, for example, foreign policy was not used to promote transformations to add value to production processes, and the development of science and new technologies was abandoned. Indiscriminate, unregulated external openness thus served to support domestic neoliberalism.
Thus, foreign policy, unilaterally or through Free Trade Agreements (FTAs), consolidated extractivism, multiplying exports, but mainly of natural resources. At the same time, this policy opened the doors to international capital without restrictions, facilitating its installation in the AFP, ISAPRES and universities.
This growth, centred on increasing exports of raw materials, shaped a regressive economy from the point of view of human development, generating precarious employment, social and regional inequalities, environmental depredation and the progressive depletion of natural resources.
As a result, the neoliberal strategy has encountered growing productive and social limits. The lack of economic diversification has slowed down both productivity and growth itself, and, at the same time, the indiscriminate opening up to international capital has served to consolidate profits in education, health and welfare.
On the other hand, the subordination of foreign policy to trade policy, and especially to FTAs, has unquestioningly aligned Chilean diplomacy with the demands of developed countries, distancing our country from Latin America and the countries of the South. In practice, this policy has hindered and undermined potential efforts to act together with the countries of the South vis-à-vis the world powers on key issues on the international agenda: predatory financial flows, intellectual property, corporate-state disputes, the environment, among others.
The economic and social transformations proposed by Boric’s government will therefore require changes in foreign policy, including opening up to international capital in the social sphere.
Indeed, in order to carry out an effective productive diversification, both unilateral foreign trade policies and trade agreements cannot be “neutral” in terms of tariffs, financial capital, foreign investment, or intellectual property. Discrimination should be made in favour of industrial sectors or those productive processes that add value and knowledge to the new productive matrix. Similarly, the new conception of rights, which will put an end to profit-making in education, health, welfare and housing, requires closing the doors or at least strictly regulating foreign investment in these sectors.
Consequently, clear criteria will have to be introduced in favour of an external relationship that is objectively consistent with the internal productive and social changes that have been proposed.
It is useful, then, to identify the countries whose experiences are comparatively more relevant in relation to the changes that the Boric government wants to carry out, in order to try to achieve closer (‘strategic’, one might say) links with them. Consequently, it will be necessary to focus especially on those countries that have achieved ostensible technological advances and productive diversification and that, at the same time, have promoted integral human development as a preponderant component.
Among them, the Nordic countries stand out for their achievements in areas of great social impact (health, education, gender, housing, citizen participation, etc.) and labour regulations (collective bargaining between workers, employers and the state). Added to this are policies of permanent technological innovation (with public-private cooperation), which have transformed their extractivist past into highly developed economies. Given their degree of affinity with many of the central objectives of the future Chilean government, the Nordic countries should serve as a point of reference, and a partnership with them will be fundamental.
For their part, countries such as Australia, New Zealand, South Korea and even China are also outstanding examples of substantive productive transformations. Their respective economies, which were originally extractivist and/or technologically backward, have also experienced an extraordinary leap in their development. In the experiences of these countries, it would be plausible to find specific policies to keep in mind in order to make progress in our own productive transformations and especially in terms of incorporating science, innovation and new technologies into our economy.
These priorities, which we describe as strategic, do not exclude, of course, the maintenance of fluid economic and diplomatic relations with the European Union, the United States, Russia and other countries of relevance in the current global context. We only wish to emphasise that the Boric government’s proposal for transformations finds greater affinity with the experience and current reality of the Nordic countries and those of the Asia-Pacific basin.
Finally, we believe it is essential to recover neighbourly relations, in which diplomatic relations are predominant, but which also offer ample economic opportunities that have so far gone untapped. We must therefore prioritise relations with Latin America in general, and with neighbouring countries in particular.
Our national project, and the possibility of having a greater political presence in the international context, is inevitably linked to Latin America and the developing world. Chile must have a foreign policy of rapprochement and economic and diplomatic cooperation, especially active with that part of the world with which it shares interests and problems, even in the midst of the current difficulties of regional institutions.
Relations with the countries of the region are not always easy. Political contingencies and ideological differences sometimes make links difficult. However, it will be the task of future diplomacy to identify common interests that will serve as a basis for pragmatic, constructive and mutually acceptable diplomatic relations, without compromising the respective strategic visions.
Regional integration, beyond political contingencies, should be the point of reference for Chile’s relations with our neighbours. Gabriel Boric has been clear in pointing out that ideological passions and political contingencies must be overcome if we want our countries to understand each other in Latin America and to integrate economically. We fully share that judgement. A South American bloc will allow us to face the challenges of the 21st century in better conditions. We cannot promote integration schemes that include some countries and exclude others. We must learn from the European Union.
In short, the break with neoliberalism that Boric’s programme proposes must deploy an international policy that effectively helps this purpose. In the new government, diplomacy, trade, investment, science and technology must be conceived as forces to support productive transformation, but also as instruments to guarantee a society of social rights.