Volume 44, Number 174,
July-September 2013

The Current Panorama of Latin American and Caribbean Integration, Alfredo Guerra- Borges (coord.), iiec-unam Mexico, 2012.

Latin American and Caribbean integration has undergone important changes over the past decade. The regional approach has been altered substantially since the 1990s, when open regionalism seemed to be the best option for Latin America and the Caribbean to successfully enter the globalized international economy. The panorama of integration is a topic that must be studied in order to understand the current structure of political and economic power in Latin America. Alfredo Guerra-Borges has done excellent work in coordinating this collection, and he also contributes one of the seven chapters.

The current scenario of Latin American and Caribbean integration is made up of various economic blocs that link together the countries in the region, such as: the Union of South American Nations (Unasur), the Southern Common Market (Mercosur), the Caribbean Community (Caricom) and the Andean Community (Can).

This collection first addresses the complexities of Unasur, as it is made up of a significant number of member countries, and what these complexities mean when trying to reach agreements and share opinions. José Briseño Ruiz highlights some of the important factors in Unasur cooperation. In 2006, the governments of Venezuela and Bolivia criticized Brazil's minimalist approach, based on liberalizing trade, creating infrastructure and integrating the energy and financial sectors, at the cost of the underlying issues that truly affected the regional population.

This criticism led to a rethinking of the objectives and amending the Treaty establishing Unasur. The bloc's work is not over, because although its objectives are now much clearer, well thought out and targeted to regional needs, the means to achieve these goals are still lacking. The institutional structure of Unasur is limited, because member countries have rejected the formation of a supranational entity that could assume authority over local governments. This continues to be an obstacle that has hindered growth.

A text by Lincoln Brizzozero Revelez, entitled, "The Weak Pillars of Strategic Regionalism," introduces us to the study of Mercosur and the challenges it faces today.

This economic bloc has undoubtedly undergone a more thorough evolution than any other. While in its early stages, there was a doubt as to whether the United States would approve of this economic alliance in the Southern Cone.

Brizzozero states that approval was achieved through the theoretical approach that Mercosur presented to the world. As mentioned already, open regionalism with a neoclassical approach provided lots of room for optimism. Free market models proposed an envious alternative for developing countries to grow their economies.

This bloc still faces other challenges that cannot be met by open regionalism, such as security, education, poverty and the environment, which will only be resolved with joint macroeconomic policies. Brazil will play a major role in driving and developing these policies, which must aim to strengthen regional integration.

Norman Girvan has contributed a text entitled, "Economic Integration: Difficult to Achieve," which provides a thorough description of the difficulties that Caricom has faced and is currently facing, from the time of its founding through to the present.

The economic bloc is extremely important, as it is made up of 15 member countries. On their own, they all represent small economies, but together, they are extremely relevant on the international stage. Caricom has undergone many transformations, beginning with the signing of the agreement establishing Carifta en 1965, whose main objective was to liberalize commerce within the region.

In 1973, Caricom was established with 13 member countries, and additional objectives were added, such as establishing a customs union and developing joint policies for the commerce of goods, services and capital. However, integration and the new objectives of Caricom were unable to resolve the massive inequalities among member countries. There continued to be obstacles to the free circulation of services and the free movement of capital. Although their objectives aimed to achieve a strong bloc, there was a lack of institutions to enforce these policies. By the 1990s, the scenario changed, and open regionalism permeated development. The bloc tended towards total market liberalization, but even so, investors did not find the area overly attractive, given lags in establishing the bloc. This led to a vicious cycle between institutional backwardness and a lack of investment. This chapter provides readers with an excellent account of Caricom, including its beginnings, formation and challenges.

Finally, three chapters are dedicated to the study of the Andean region. Although the texts approach the topic from different angles, there are three fundamental aspects addressed. First, the diplomatic conflicts among members, second, the deterioration of commerce within the region, and finally, the ideological perspectives on the economic model that each country has chosen in order to achieve economic growth and development. Diplomatic conflicts between Colombia and Ecuador (described in detail in the chapter, "International Crisis and Regional Integration") have generated frictions that have affected relationships among the entire bloc, and have impeded the formation of an appropriate environment in which to generate joint policies to benefit the region. Commercial deterioration within the region is a problem that Can has suffered over the years, but especially since 2008 with the onset of the global economic crisis. Divergent ideologies have also led to repercussions in this area.

For example, Peru and Colombia have focused their commercial policies on signing fta, the most important existing with the United States. Ecuador and Bolivia, however, feel that these types of agreements have fractured the Can and are entirely in disagreement with signing an fta as a bloc. Their position on the European Union is very similar. M. Carmela Julio Giraldo analyzes the relationship between the Can and the European Union, highlighting the interest of the latter in generating commercial relations with the Can. This contribution was written before the European Union crisis began, but it is still an example of economic integration.

However, it is very difficult to find a balance among the approaches of each member country with regards to achieving development. fta do not seem to be the solution for regional problems - to demonstrate this, readers need only to look to the situation following the signing of an fta between Mexico and the US and Canada, which only led to increasing inequality gaps among the nations, and widening the social chasms within the countries. Poverty and unemployment have risen as well, generating a vicious cycle that continues to sink developing countries.

A paragraph written by Alfredo Guerra-Borges provides the conclusion, describing the current situation in Central America. However, it is also applicable to Latin America and the Caribbean: "[...] The pressing need to strive for taking advantage of new possibilities for growth and development cannot be over-emphasized. This will require adopting industrial, agricultural and service policies that currently do not exist. The majority of efforts have been concentrated on commercial issues, and there have been no substantial changes to productive policies. The neoliberal wave has accustomed us to live without them and spread the idea that development (it was more common to say growth in those years) would come on the shoulders of external opening and free trade. But this prophecy was not to be."

Patricia Vázquez
Faculty of Economics–unam

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Published in Mexico, 2012-2017 © D.R. Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México (UNAM).
PROBLEMAS DEL DESARROLLO. REVISTA LATINOAMERICANA DE ECONOMÍA, Volume 48, Number 191, October-December 2017 is a quarterly publication by the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, Ciudad Universitaria, Coyoacán, CP 04510, México, D.F. by Instituto de Investigaciones Económicas, Circuito Mario de la Cueva, Ciudad Universitaria, Coyoacán,
CP 04510, México, D.F. Tel (52 55) 56 23 01 05 and (52 55) 56 24 23 39, fax (52 55) 56 23 00 97, www.probdes.iiec.unam.mx, revprode@unam.mx. Journal Editor: Alicia Girón González. Reservation of rights to exclusive use of the title: 04-2012-070613560300-203, ISSN: pending. Person responsible for the latest update of this issue: Minerva García, Circuito Maestro Mario de la Cueva s/n, Ciudad Universitaria, Coyoacán, CP 04510, México D.F., latest update: Nov 13th, 2017.
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