The trend towards a world of large interconnected economic spaces is
being accentuated by the transformations that have taken place in the
international scenario over the last years. This is introducing gradual
but significant changes in the map of world economic competition. It will
probably do likewise in the institutional architecture of the global economic
order of the future.
Due to its relative economic dimension, such spaces could set into motion
a sufficient critical mass of power so as to have a greater incidence
in the definition of the ground rules of international economic relations
and in the mechanisms of the main global multilateral institutions. In
such case, they could act as "rule makers" in the system of
world trade, considered in its broader sense as the result of the transnational
flow of goods, services, technologies and investments.
Several of these economic spaces are currently represented by individual
countries of continental dimensions and everything indicates that they
will continue to do so. In fact, towards the year 2050 three major economic
spaces could add up to approximately 66% of the world's gross product
(at PPP). These countries are China, the US and India (in that order and
with a marked distance between China and the other two). They represented
51.8% of the world's GDP in 2010. The following four countries (Brazil,
Mexico, Russia and Indonesia) would add up only to 13.7% of the total,
whereas Germany and the UK would each represent 2.1%. (These figures are
based on data from the IMF with projections by the authors and presented
by Uri Dadush and William Shaw on page 3 of a recently published book
allusively entitled "Juggernaut"; see the reference under Recommended
In turn, other major economic spaces could be the result of geographic
regions organized in groups of countries. In such case, institutionalization
could enable them to express themselves under one voice, particularly
in many relevant issues pertaining to world economic competition. Possibly,
this would be the uttermost manifestation of the political and economic
event involving a group of sovereign nations that belong to a given geographical
space and that freely decide to build throughout time -and with modalities
and methodologies that can differ greatly in each case- an institutionalized
region in which they share markets, resources and strategies. This would
express itself in a construct with which citizens could identify themselves,
giving birth to the idea of "us" and "them" that is
a key element for social validation and for the sustainability of this
kind of joint regional undertaking.
This is the case of the European Union -at least until today-. In fact
this is, for the moment being, the only organized geographic region that
has a relevant economic dimension. As long as it can continue to express
itself as a merger of countries that preserve their respective sovereignties
while working in association, it will be possible to foresee that the
European regional space will continue to be a relevant actor in the world
economic scenario of the next decades. However, the current crisis of
its integration process - is it just a crisis of the Euro? Is it a governance
crisis as well? Or worse yet, is it an identity and social legitimacy
crisis of the very idea of an institutionalized region? - poses some serious
doubts on its future role as a large organized economic space, at least
equivalent in magnitude and relevance to each one of the three countries
mentioned above. The fact that not all the citizens of the EU member countries
consider that Greece's troubles (or, for that matter, the troubles of
any other member country with strong financial difficulties) are "their
problem" may be revealing an existential crisis of deeper consequences.
Yet, in the future, this could be the case of other geographical regions
of great dimensions such as, for example, Southeast Asia, Northern and
Sub-Saharan Africa and the Middle East. Indeed, it could become the case
of South America as well.
At present, however, it could be difficult to foresee when it will be
possible for these other geographical spaces to be able to express themselves
under one single voice, with all that this implies in terms of density
and sustainability in the construction of a region. It would not seem
sufficient to grant to the larger countries of the corresponding regional
space the attribution of speaking on behalf of the other countries that
form part of it -or that they self-arrogate this role themselves. Currently,
for example, neither Brazil nor Argentina in South America, nor South
Africa in Sub-Saharan Africa, nor Saudi Arabia or Turkey in the Middle
East, nor Indonesia in South East Asia could aspire to reflect per-se,
formally and systematically within the frame of the G20, the points of
view and expectations of the other countries of their respective regions.
Neither can this be done individually by Germany, France, Italy or the
UK in Europe. This is the reason why the European Union also participates
in the G20.
In the specific case of Mercosur, the following questions come into consideration:
Will it be perceived in the future as a regional economic space that expresses
itself under one single voice, at least in the relevant issues of the
international economic agenda, including international trade negotiations?,
and will it be able as well to reflect the interests of a broader South
American regional space if the announced addition of Bolivia, Ecuador
and eventually Colombia as full members were to take place, aside from
concluding the pending incorporation of Venezuela?
These are just some of the questions that can arise given the fact that,
on the one hand, the South American regional space complies with the requisites
of having a great economic dimension and a significant critical mass of
power -at least potentially- and, on the other hand, that two countries
from this geographic region -Argentina and Brazil- currently form part
of the G20, which aspires to become a relevant institutional nucleus in
the construction of a new world economic architecture. But, above all,
given the fact that what was agreed when it was founded was precisely
to create, through incremental steps, a common economic space open to
the participation of other South American countries.
Mercosur's semiannual Presidential Summits provide an opportunity to
search for answers to all of these questions at the highest political
level. It is befitting precisely of the Summits to contribute with new
energies and directions to the process of building a regional space of
South American scope. To renew the necessary political drive, to symbolize
the strategic value of the common project and to provide an environment
for the sincere dialogue at the highest political level are three of the
functions to be expected from these system of Presidential Summits. It
may even be said that, in a way, these are the purposes that justify its
In this sense, the last Summit held recently in Asuncion has proved an
occasion to confer political drive to the beginning of the process that
should lead to the addition of Bolivia and Ecuador as new members. In
this way they would be joining Venezuela, once the formalization for its
membership is concluded, since the approval of the Caracas Protocol by
the Paraguayan Congress is still pending. In turn, Chile has a special
relation with Mercosur that involves a strong degree of economic integration.
In addition, the eventual incorporation of Colombia has been considered
The President of the country that holds the semiannual pro-tempore presidency
plays a relevant role in sustaining the political drive necessary for
the construction of the regional space of Mercosur. In this second semester
of the year, the President of Uruguay has the opportunity to propose initiatives
that may aspire to achieve the consensus of the other member countries
and subsequently have an impact on reality.
These may be initiatives related with the agenda of priorities that Mercosur
may have each semester. Currently these are, among others, to perfect
the customs union, to deal with asymmetries, and to address productive
integration and foreign trade negotiations (on this regard, see the joint
communiqué by the presidents of the member countries and the minutes
of the meeting of the Common Market Council on www.mercosur.int).
These can also be initiatives aimed at introducing approaches that seek
to renew the process of integration by adapting it to the new global and
What transcended from the thoughts expressed by President Jose Mujica
to his colleagues at the recent Asuncion Summit enables us to envision
certain keynotes which could become the focus of his work in his temporary
appointment during this semester (for the ideas of the President of Uruguay
go to http://www.presidencia.gub.uy/).
From our interpretation of what was expressed by Mujica it would be
possible to outline three keynotes that, without exclusion of others,
stand out due to their potential significance.
The first keynote refers to the need to interpret "the times we
are living in and where we are headed for". It implies the development
at the Mercosur scale of some efforts aimed at "decoding" the
world around us and understanding the effects of the intense forces that
shape it, all this within the perspective of the region.
This would require engaging in the preparation of a joint assessment
of the opportunities and challenges that certain trends of the international
scenario may pose for our countries. Energy and food, creativity, technical
progress and innovation, and consumption and production capabilities are
some of the key issues that could feed a joint strategic agenda of the
Mercosur countries in a world of large interconnected economic spaces
and with strong shifts in relative economic power and in the abilities
to compete at a global scale.
The installed capacity of the partner countries to make assessments that
help understand the international reality from a perspective of the Mercosur
region is vast and may be articulated in a network of competitive intelligence.
An example of this may be what the IPEA (Institute for Applied Economic
Research) is in Brazil.
A second keynote refers to the institutional aspect. It has multiple
possible unfoldings, among others those aimed at investing the work methods
used in Mercosur with greater rationality, effectiveness and efficiency.
Yet, a preemptive aspect in view of what was discussed before would be
precisely to be able to advance the capacity of the partners to express
themselves under one single voice in those relevant issues of Mercosur's
foreign agenda. It will require an answer to the following question: Who
and why could speak on behalf of all the partners? Both the Doha Round
-and obviously the WTO- and the G20 are the appropriate ambits to move
forward in a previously agreed conjoint expression of the Mercosur members.
This would seem even more relevant precisely if the addition of new member
countries were to take place.
The third keynote, and possibly the most challenging, is the idea of
moving forward towards modalities of "digital democracy". In
that sense, proposals aimed at a Mercosur 2.0, with a strong emphasis
on transparency and the actual access to relevant information for citizens
would help increase the credibility and social legitimacy of the integration
A significant breakthrough could take place in relation to the informative
quality of the web pages of Mercosur's bodies. Considering the present
situation, some substantial progress could be made in terms of the information
included in them and also with regards to their interactive quality.
At one point, Uruguay promoted the initiative called Somos Mercosur (in
English We Are Mercosur, see http://www.somosmercosur.net/).
Perhaps it could now be furthered in the direction of the concept of "digital
democracy". This would include all the relevant information, even
that of economic scope, so that the citizens of the member countries are
able to follow closely the construction of the regional space in all those
aspects that, in one way or the other, may affect their daily lives, be
it as citizens, workers, entrepreneurs consumers or in any other aspect
of the social activity.
In this sense, a main focus could be related to the multiple unfolding
of the current and potential impacts of Mercosur and its instruments on
the creation of productive employment.