Writing about web page iiss.org
Kamila Pieczara | 11 June 2014
Focusing on geo-economic issues, the Cartagena Dialogue will bring together countries from both sides of the Pacific: Latin American, North American, Asian, and some European ones.
It is therefore meant to look less political than the two other summits of the International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS) that the Cartagena one is set to join next March: the Asian Shangri-la Dialogue and the Middle Eastern Manama Dialogue. The Cartagena Dialogue will embrace countries from Canada to Chile on the America’s side, plus a dozen of Asian countries, Portugal and Spain, and countries such as France, the UK, and also the European Union representation.
Another summit? There are reasons, however, to be interested in the Cartagena Dialogue. Inception of this summit was announced at the Shangri-La Dialogue. This is a well-known annual gathering of defence ministers or senior officials as speakers, with hundreds of Asia experts in attendance. This year, it brought to Singapore the Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, as well as senior staff from Chinese People’s Liberation Army, along with defense minister of France and from Southeast Asian countries, as well as the US secretary of defence, Chuck Hagel.
The IISS, based in London, has regional offices in Washington DC, Manama in Bahrain, and in Singapore. But it lacks a Latin American office. Even though Latin America of the moment is a less fragile region politically, serious discussions must have preceded the scheduling of this summit, which may become a regional ‘institution’, just like the Shangri-La or Manama Dialogue, also attended by senior defence officials.
In March in Colombia’s Cartagena the difference in concept is to bridge two or even three regions: the Asia-Pacific, Latin and North America. Especially if the region of Latin America witnesses economic or political turmoil, the little known place of Cartagena might be the scene of discussions that will later feed into policy-making. Following the establishment of the Pacific Alliance (in Spanish, Alianza del Pacífico), a free-trade agreement of initially Chile, Colombia, Mexico and Peru in June 2012, indeed the importance of the Pacific as a common denominator in states’ relations is set to grow.
While it is difficult to foresee the summit agenda, the ‘staples’ are likely to be not only tightening economic relations among Latin American states, but their relations with the United States, and – increasingly – Asia-Pacific powers such as China. Whether the gathering becomes an occasion to celebrate economic successes or rather to speak out about any tensions, both scenarios look good for Pacific states if they are to have a forum permitting both.