Volume 44, Number 175,
October-December 2013

Latin American and Caribbean Integration, Politics and Economics, José Briceño, Andrés Rivarola and Ángel Casas (editors), Fondo de Cultura Económica, Mexico.

Historically, the subject of regional integration has been one of the most debated topics in Latin American thought. In the first chapter of this work, José Briceño traces the origins of integration to the mid-nineteenth century and follows what he considers to be its two main ideas: political autonomy and economic development. Miguel Ángel Barrios summarizes the background of integration and its continuity in the links between the Hispano-American unionism of the nineteenth century and the movement towards Latin American integration in the twentieth, emphasizing the need for the region to build its own cultural identity, a necessary prerequisite to achieve a continental industrial State, a concept developed by Alberto Methol Ferré in the epilogue of the book.

According to Andrés Rivarola, the profuse literature on Latin American regionalist thought reveals a historical convergence in the 1950s around the ideas of Prebisch and the eclac. In this contribution, the author explains how this theoretical school of thought and its institutional framework arose as an expression of "regionalist nationalism" and seek to academically legitimize development strategies in the process of being implemented, formulating an economic critique of the free trade orthodox perspective. It is of note that on the whole, the book emphasizes the pragmatic nature of reflections starting in 1950 and their relevance in historical terms.

In this order of ideas, the major contribution of the first part of the book resides precisely in its capacity to recover and provide a historical and multidisciplinary follow-up to the specifics of Latin American thought on regional integration. The second and third parts seek to explain the political and economic aspects, respectively, considered crucial by the different authors in their analytical frameworks. Although these vary, they always reference the real possibilities to achieve a sustainable project for the region.

In this way, Tullo Vigevani and Haroldo Ramanzini indicate that integrationist topics are of little importance in Brazilian thought until the 1980s, motivated by the continental nature of the nation and the strength and tradition of the idea of national strengthening in the political realm. María Antonia Correa documents the weight and importance of the topic in the works of ideologists, integration theorists and Mexican intellectuals in the 1960s. After reviewing the national strains of ideology interested in regionalism in the second half of the twentieth century, the first work confirms that recent interest in the idea in Brazil has arisen to the extent that it can be a tool to strengthen the country nationally. The second contribution critiques the Mexican government's disregard, starting in the 1990s, towards the ideas defended decades earlier by its intellectuals as a result of Mexico's deference to the decisions of the United States.

The comparison is relevant, because in both cases, the present or past negative case of regional commitment led to an interpretation of "national" interest on behalf of political authorities. In light of the work by Tullo Vigevani and Haroldo Ramanzini, it would be difficult to believe that the Latin American integration project has ever come close to crystallizing – outside of the imaginations of intellectuals in the region. The major power in the region has historically set its priorities in terms of foreign policy on its aspirations to play a major role on the international stage, which Ruy Mauro Marini would qualify as sub-imperial ambition.

In terms of the real future possibilities for a project of this nature, it goes without saying that defining this project must be done pragmatically, as many of the analyses in this work make clear. By assuming a common anti-United States front, countries can maintain collaborative long-term positions and avoid sub-imperial positions. There is therefore a need to establish the principles of mutual cooperation and reciprocity between countries, as proposed by the eclac and documented by Guerra-Borges in his contribution, as well as mechanisms for more favorable treatment destined towards nations with lower relative development.

Needless to say, these measures are incompatible with the logic of the current international division of labor, which has been orchestrated by international bodies such as the World Trade Organization, based on a defense of free competition. Guerra-Borges demonstrates this through the historical experiences of the region, recounting the obstacles that the cacm and the lafta have encountered as a direct result of the wto. He attributes a large part of the failure of the "most important Latin American agreement of the early years […] to the imposition of a plan that did not match the aspirations of these countries, orchestrated from abroad” (211).

This permanent systemic tension between the requirements of sustainable regional integration among equals and a dynamic of hierarchized and unequal global political and economic functioning is a central question that the work addresses only partially and indirectly. This is generally done through a broad but repetitive summary of the pioneering ideas of the eclac with regards to economic development. Carlos Mallorquín provides an interesting review of the historical context in which the commission was formed based on the seminal ideas of Prebisch and his debates with different contemporary theorists. However, he does not allude to the title topic of the book. Alejandro Gutierrez, on the other hand, describes the ideological changes in the eclac starting in the crisis of the 1980s, by defining three stages of the integrationist perspective of the organization, the old regionalism associated with ISI, the open regionalism linked to the Washington Consensus and finally, the current post-liberal regionalism marked by a plurality of points of views.

Broadly speaking, from a theoretical and historical perspective, this book recovers some of the reflections that have grown in Latin America with regards to regional integration, paying special attention to economic aspects driven by the eclac that seek the project as a means to broadening internal Latin American markets to sustain an industrialization process to raise income levels and overcome the dependence of the nations in the region on power "centers." A necessary complement to this work is therefore a series of less descriptive contributions that go more into depth as to the empirical studies of practical teachings, to provide a definitive account of the viability of the reflections reviewed here.

Completing this outline of ideas requires addressing the analysis laid out in different contexts and especially contemporary economic practices, on the one hand, and on the other, including some additional transcendent themes such as the degree to which the economies complement each other or the role of large multinational companies in determining trade flows, to cite two examples. Ángel Casas uses a variety of indirect biographical sources and describes the argument of dependence theory with relation to the "enormous influence of foreign monopolistic interests in the region" (230), in order to highlight the differences of this way of thinking as compared to the eclac school of thought. The resurgence of these debates in the framework of current global economic and political conditions could breathe new life into the region's integration agenda.

Raúl Vázquez
Institute of Economic Research - 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 49, Number 192, January-March 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: Feb 23th, 2018.
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