GRM 2010 GRM 2011

Abstract Details

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The role of Latin America in the foreign policies of the GCC states
Paper Proposal Text :
When we look at the international relations of the Gulf Cooperation Council countries (GCC) -Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates-, we find a lot of patterns that can be seen as part of the deep-rooted similarities shared by these states. All of them are small states, exporters of oil, located in a turbulent region and part of a security framework led by the United States. However, as we look at them closer, differences become more obvious. Despite their smallness, each of them has different capacities and roles at the international and regional realms -which influence their level of importance in the superpowers agenda-, distinct political systems at home, and dissimilar socioeconomic conditions.
These differences have an expression in their foreign policy towards Latin America. Although, in general terms, these states have shown a relative lack of interest in this region –compared with the relevance of North America, South or East Asia in their agenda-, there are important differences in their rapprochement, which deserve not only a mention, but an analysis. For instance, while Qatar and Saudi Arabia maintain, respectively, seven and six representations in Latin America, Oman and Bahrain have no representations in this region. Moreover, in January 2010, Hamad bin Jalīfa Al Thānī –after being the only head of state of the GCC who attended South America-Arab countries summit in Brazil, in 2005- made an official tour with his wife, shaikha Mūza bint Nasser Al Missnid, for Brazil, Argentina, Venezuela and Costa Rica. This event contrasts with the behavior of other head of states of the GCC (e.g. Sultan Qabūs from Oman and King Hamad Al Khalīfa from Bahrain), who, despite their longstanding stay in government, have made no official visits to Latin American countries.
My main purpose in this paper is to explore some of the factors that can account for these contrasts. I contend that recent development projects in the GCC states and these countries willingness for participating in the configuration of a new international order are two key variables for explaining differences in their rapprochement towards Latin America in the last decade. Specifically, I argue that because of the favorable environment offered by Latin America to investment inflows (e.g. vast natural resources, proximity with the United States and a huge internal market) and some of its leaders’ posture regarding international issues, this region has been more attractive for those GCC governments that wish either to increase their foreign assets or to participate in the configuration of a new world order.
This study is exploratory and does not seek to test a hypothesis; it aims to describe and analyze some of the determinants of the foreign policies of GCC states towards Latin America. Its relevance involves theoretical as well as practical matters. On the one hand, it aims to discuss the usefulness of non-structural approaches for the analysis of the foreign policy of GCC states. On the other hand, it explores the factors that have habilitated the rapprochement of GCC countries to this region and the possibility of either shrinking or broadening this relation.
This purpose will be addressed through five sections in this paper. In the first one, I will discuss the theoretical framework in which this analysis is embedded. Specifically, I shall discus the weakness of structural approaches to foreign policy, which make an emphasis on domestic and structural constrains (e.g. international polarity and state-society relations) on decision-making processes, but overlook the effects of agency. In the second part, I will describe the different paths that every GCC state has pursued in its policy towards Latin America in the last decade. In the next two sections, I will relate these developments to the strategies for development from every GCC state in the last ten years and their willingness to participate in the configuration of a new world order. Finally, I will conclude with a brief assessment of the opportunities and challenges for broadening these ties.