José Antonio García Belaúnde / Peru’s Ambassador
Alberto Rubio. 20/09/2018
He was the Minister of Foreign Affairs at the stage in which Peru launched its international ‘coming-out’ and the opening of its economy. José Antonio García Belaúnde arrived in Madrid in 2017 and states that “it is easy to be the Peru’s Ambassador to Spain”.
Why do you say that?
Beyond our shared history, the truth is that in recent years we have developed very strong common interests. Not only the large Spanish investments in Peru, such as those of Telefónica or BBVA, but as the crisis started a lot of investment by small and medium-sized companies came to save themselves from recession. And they did well. At one time there were sixty thousand Spaniards in Lima, which generated a very favorable opinión between peruvians. And that was immediately transmitted here. That is why there is a very favorable predisposition towards Peru, because of the experience of so many Spaniards linked to my country.
Peru has changed a lot. I am afraid that I can no longer ask you ‘at what moment had Peru fucked itself up?’
I think, fortunately, not anymore (laughs). Until the year 2000 we lived oscillating, both economically and politically, from dictatorships to democracies, and in economy we also lurched. Since then, for the first time in our history, we have had four successive governments democratically elected and eighteen years of sustained economic growth.
Is it an irreversible process?
I think so.
During your time as a minister, Peruvian foreign policy grew. Which of those achievements do you feel most satisfied with?
It is very difficult to establish priorities. The Pacific Alliance, the FTA with the United States and the Free Trade Agreement with the EU, respond to the same criteria: inserting ourselves into the international economy in a competitive manner. And these three treaties, and the one we have with China, are international obligations that not only imply access to markets but also certain disciplines, maintain an economy open to the world, be more competitive and generate more jobs and greater services.
Do you trust FTA with the United States will be maintained in the current terms?
The United States began signing an FTA with Mexico and Canada. Then launched the Initiative of the Americas, which Brazil and Argentina brought to fail in the 90s, but other FTAs were generated, with Chile, Peru, Colombia and Central America. I do not think those FTAs are in danger. If we clean up a bit the litter, the rhetoric, we will see that everything has to do with the perception that certain adopted commitments are a threat to the industry and to employment in the United States. That is why Mexico, Canada and possibly Europe can be victims of such decisions. Countries like ours do not pose a threat.
How does the Free Trade Agreement work with the EU?
It is working very well. Our trade has grown a lot. We are satisfied.
I would like to highlight the fundamental role that Spain played in moving the Agreement forward, since Ecuador and Bolivia were not willing to sign it. The Zapatero Government and the European Commissioner Benita Ferrero-Waldner managed to negotiate the changes so that Peru and Colombia could continue to advance.
Has the Bolivarian bloc hurt Latin America?
I do not think it can be said that way. I think they were wrong in commercial terms. They made free trade an anathema and created the ALBA, which was a political instrument rather than an economic one. They wanted a kind of managed trade. The difference is that free trade allows you to sell what was not sold and the managed trade tries to ensure that you will continue selling what is already being sold. These are two different perceptions. At a given moment it was very clear that in Latin America there were two options: one open to the world and another closed, protectionist, that of the Bolivarian countries. There was some tension, I would call it a kind of low intensity ‘cold war’. But that was overcome. And finally, those of us who bet on insertion in the world were better economically than those who were reduced to these protectionist schemes, which already existed before and that had already failed in the past.
How do you see the crisis in Venezuela?
Today, the problem is humanitarian. And it involves at least three countries: Colombia, which receives the most immigrants (more than 1 million); Peru, where more than 400,000 have arrived in the last year; and Ecuador. Apparently Brazil too. We have to see how this problem is handled, but it is a reality that can not be ignored.
Maybe only the Venezuelan Government ignores it?
Exactly. Mr. Cabello has said it’s just a fad.
A curious fad, isn’t it?
So it is. I do not think that a million people have gone merely on ‘trekking’.
What can multilateral organizations do?
Let’s discard the Pacific Alliance, which is a body of economic integration without political responsibilities. The OAS, CELAC and other regional organizations remain. They can only insist on promoting a dialogue to solve first the most serious thing: the humanitarian crisis. Then, don’t be fooled, there’s a political crisis. We must insist on asking the Venezuelan government to face the crisis. And we must facilitate dialogue between the parties, with international actors.
Can this crisis cross borders, like an epidemic?
Crises are epidemic if you have low defenses. I do not believe that Colombia or Peru have low defenses.
Did you foresee any reference to this crisis at next Ibero-American Summit?
Yes, I suppose so. But I do not know how officials are working on this issue. We’ll have to wait.
What Spanish-Peruvian bilateral relations lack or spare?
We have a lot of willpower to spare.
That’s good, isn’t it?
Yes, of course. Talking seriously, I think we lack a greater economic presence of Peru here. Our companies have begun to internationalize, but they have done it fundamentally in the region. In Chile, Bolivia, Ecuador, Colombia, even in Miami and Malaysia. In Spain there are a couple of companies, but there could be many more.
What plans do you have to promote Peru in Spain?
Peru will be the guest country of ARCO next year and we will have an important artistic presence. An exhibition of the Nazca culture will come to Telefónica; another one of Peruvian photography to Casa America; and one more, about Peruvian Amazonic Art, to Madrid’s Matadero. Also a sample of viceroyalty period’s painting will be exhibited at the Museo del Prado.
Culture is diplomacy too.
It is a very important way of promotion. In addition, Peru has three great ambassadors here: Mario Vargas Llosa, Andrés Roca Rey and Juan Diego Flores. We can say, as in the past, that ‘they are worth a Peru’.