Friday, June 18, 2010

A "Regional Stasis" in Latin American integration?

In what is the latest bashing on Latin American integration, a piece in Taipei Times paints an-almost hopeless view of that regions efforts. The piece, penned by Augusto Varas, starts with MERCOSUR, writing that:

The Argentine academic Roberto Bouzas says MERCOSUR is in a critical state of affairs, owing to the inability of its institutions to maintain “the common objectives which drove its member states to engage in the process of regional integration and the consequent loss of focus and capacity to prioritize underlying political problems.”

Then it goes on to point out that it is BRAZIL that wants to establish itself as the hegemon--"intent on assuming a regional and global political role that corresponds to its growing economic weight."

On UNASUR, it writes:

The proposed Union of South American Nations (Unasur), like the South American Defense Council, is part of a Brazilian regional strategy to encourage cooperation within Latin America in order to counterbalance the power of the US and act as a mediator in regional disagreements. While the Unasur proposal may have been formulated in a more rigorous way than other initiatives, its failure to contemplate trade integration means that there is nothing to tie member states together beyond political will.

It ends with an quick, albeit superficial, analysis of the proposed Organisation of Latin American States I have written about before here:

What is important is what he writes:

...Ecuadoran President Rafael Correa proposed some time ago an Organization of Latin American States to replace the Organization of American States (OAS). Although the inclusion of all Latin American states goes some way toward repairing the weakened Brazilian-Mexican axis, and creates a new and more positive environment for future political coordination, this new organization is unlikely to contribute much to actual regional integration

It is generally a good read that merits more critique than I am giving it now. Suffice-to-say that the latest report by the UN Economic Commission on Africa--Assessing Regional Integration in Africa IV maintains on p.495 that:

MERCOSUR has met obstacles in consolidating its customs unions, and there are new delays and exceptions to the agreement, especially in the field of textiles and apparel. Nonetheless, MERCOSUR trade has been the most dynamic in the Latin American region, especially with respect to intra-MERCOSUR exports, which increased by almost 140.3 percent since 2004...

Although the picture is not altogether-perfect, ARIA IV does write that:

...during its 19 years of existence, MERCOSUR has proved successful in promoting regional peace and democracy. It has generated high-level political dialogue and cooperation among many domains, from justice and the fight against terrorism to the environment...

In the final analysis, I think I gave the game away when I wrote how the article reeks of dyspeptic gloom about regional integration efforts in Latin America. If he thinks this is chaotic, I wonder what he will have to say about African integration efforts!;-)

Let's face it, though--against such authoritative statistics by no less than the UN Economic Commission on Africa(UNECA), I think the writer better come again!

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