Foreign policy does not have autonomous ends, but is a substantive component of any development strategy. The type of external openness that characterized our country in the last forty years has been consistent with the productive model that exports natural resources and functional to the existence of profit in the social area, such as education, health and welfare. That is what needs to be changed.
Indeed, development was confused with growth and export of raw materials. And, unlike 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 renounced. The indiscriminate external opening, without regulations, then served as support for internal 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, also facilitating its installation in the AFP, ISAPRES and universities.
This growth, focused on the increase in exports of raw materials, formed a regressive economy from the point of view of human development, generating precarious employment, social and regional inequalities, predation of the environment and the progressive depletion of natural resources.
Thus, the neoliberal strategy has found increasing productive and social limits. The scarce economic diversification has slowed down both productivity and growth itself and, at the same time, the indiscriminate opening to international capital has served to consolidate profit in education, health and welfare.
On the other hand, the subordination of foreign policy to trade policy and, especially to FTAs, unquestioningly aligned Chilean diplomacy with the demands of developed countries, distancing our country from Latin America and the countries of the south. This policy has hindered and harmed, in practice, potential efforts to act together with the countries of the South in the face of world powers on issues that determine the international agenda: predatory financial flows, intellectual property, corporate-state controversies, the environment, among others.
The economic and social transformations that the Boric government has proposed will then require modifying foreign policy, including opening up to international capital in the social area.
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, external investments, or intellectual property. Discrimination should be made in favour of industrial sectors or those production processes, which add value and knowledge to the new productive matrix. Similarly, the new conception of rights, which will end profit in education, health, welfare and housing, requires closing the doors or at least strictly regulating external investment in these sectors.
Consequently, clear criteria will have to be introduced in favour of an external relationship 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 reach closer (“strategic”, one might say) links with them. Consequently, it will be necessary to target especially those who have achieved ostensible technological advances and productive diversification and who, simultaneously, have promoted an 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 labor regulations (collective bargaining between workers, employers and the state). To this are added 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 Chile’s future government, the Nordic countries should beTurning us into referents, and privileging an alliance with them will be fundamental.
For their part, countries such as Australia, New Zealand, South Korea, and even China, are also prominent examples of substantive productive transformations. Their respective economies, which were originally extractive 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 to advance in our own productive transformations and especially in relation to incorporating science, innovation and new technologies into our economy.
These priorities, which we describe as strategic, do not exclude, by the way, the fluid maintenance of economic and diplomatic relations with the European Union, the United States, Russia and other countries of relevance in the current global context. We only want to emphasize that the proposal of transformations of the Boric government finds greater affinity with the experience and current reality of the Nordic countries and those indicated of the Asia-Pacific basin.
Finally, it seems inescapable to us to recover neighborhood relations, in which the diplomatic is preponderant, but which also offers ample economic opportunities, hitherto untapped. Therefore, relations with Latin America in general, and with neighboring countries in particular, must be prioritized.
Our country project, and the possibility of influencing with greater political presence in the international context, is unfailingly 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 difficulties currently presented by regional institutions.
Relations with the countries of the region are not always easy. Political contingencies and ideological differences sometimes make ties difficult. However, it will be the task of future diplomacy, the identification of common interests that serve as the basis for pragmatic, constructive, and mutually acceptable diplomatic relations, without compromising the respective strategic visions.
Regional integration, beyond political contingencies, must be the benchmark of Chile’s relations with our neighbors. Gabriel Boric has been clear in pointing out that it is necessary to overcome ideological passions and political contingencies, if we want our countries to understand each other in Latin America and integrate economically. We fully share that view. A South American bloc will allow us to face the challenges of the twenty-first century in better conditions. We cannot promote integration schemes that include some countries and exclude the rest. We must learn from the European Union.
In short, the break with neoliberalism proposed by Boric’s program must deploy an international policy that effectively helps that purpose. In the new government, diplomacy, trade, investment, science and technology must be conceived as forces supporting productive transformation, but also as instruments to guarantee a society of social rights.
The content expressed in this opinion column is the sole responsibility of its author, and does not necessarily reflect the editorial line or position of El Mostrador.