inicio | contacto | buscador | imprimir   
 
· Presentación
· Trayectoria
· Artículos y notas
· Newsletter (español)
· Newsletter (english)
· Radar Internacional
· Tesis de posgrado
· Programas de clase
· Sitios recomendados

Publicaciones
· Las crisis en el multilateralismo y en los acuerdos regionales
· Argentina y Brasil en
el sistema de relaciones internacionales
· Momentos y Perspectivas


  Félix Peña

INTERNATIONAL TRADE RELATIONS NEWSLETTER
2021 | 2020 | 2020 | 2019 | 2018 | 2017 | 2016
2015 | 2014 | 2013 | 2012 | 2011 | 2010 | 2009

MERCOSUR AS A REGION OF PEACE AND JOINT DEVELOPMENT
The need for pragmatic leadership, social goodwill, and "de facto solidarities".


by Félix Peña
April 2021

English translation: Isabel Romero Carranza


 

On March 26, 2021, the Summit of Mercosur countries could not be held in person, so it took place remotely. This is not the ideal modality to develop dialogues at the highest level, aimed at articulating positions on the adaptation of Mercosur to the new global and regional realities, or to the realities of each of the member countries. Such dialogues are more effective when they take place face-to-face.

On the positive side, a new opportunity has opened up for an effective conversation among the four partners. We are referring to the meeting of Ministers of Foreign Affairs scheduled for April 22nd, which will be preceded by a session of the Common Market Group, which is the appropriate forum to prepare for a ministerial meeting that, due to its agenda, might prove complex.

In the perspective of the current debate among Mercosur partners, at least as it has been conveyed to public opinion in the four countries, two main issues would take priority at the April 22 meeting, without excluding others that could also be considered relevant, such as Mercosur's position on the possible evolution of the coronavirus pandemic and, above all, of the "post-pandemic" world.

The first issue refers to the level of effective protection that may result from the common external tariff, acknowledged as one of the fundamental instruments of Mercosur in Article 1 of the Treaty of Asuncion, with its ensuing impact on the interpretation of Article 2, which is key to fully understand the scope of the pact that originated Mercosur.

The second issue refers to the notion of making Mercosur more flexible. This is a proposal that generally, at least in its most extreme version, refers to the idea that individual member countries may conclude free trade agreements with third countries.

In addition to the two issues mentioned above, there are other relevant matters on Mercosur's agenda that will require, sooner rather than later, an approach at the highest political level. One of these refers to the joint proposal made by the industrialists of the four countries to develop policies that help shift from primary economies to the manufacture of value-added products. Thus the issue of trade negotiations to be developed by Mercosur is considered in this perspective.


Mercosur has been in existence for 30 years. From the time it was created, the idea was to reach an agreement among the four founding countries (Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay and Uruguay) to build a region of peace and economic and social development. This implies an alliance of the democracies and the promotion of a competitive and assertive insertion in the world. It is a foundational pact with no deadline for conclusion: its indefinite duration was established in Article 19 of the Treaty of Asuncion. However, if a country chooses to withdraw, it may do so by denouncing the Treaty (Articles 21 and 22).

The idea of independent countries voluntarily agreeing to work together, sharing the exercise of their respective sovereignties, requires vision and political leadership, initially, at the time of its inception and thereafter in order to take the necessary steps for its continued evolution, including the adaptation to the new realities. The history of the European Union proves this point. This vision and political leadership must reflect the values and experiences of each national society. Eventually, a "jeitinho diplomacy" may become convenient when interpreting some of its legal commitments, such as the Common External Tariff and the so-called free trade agreements negotiated by the different members with third countries.

Additionally, it also calls for social goodwill and the capacity to generate "de facto solidarities". Goodwill in the sense of a social resolve on the side of the majority of the sectors of a society, whether this is due to conviction or for lack of other reasonable options. "De facto solidarities", in the sense proposed at the time by Jean Monnet (one of the founding fathers of the European integration process), referring to the generation of factors that make it costly to try to untie the links resulting from the reality of undertaking joint work between a group of countries.

Collaborative work among a group of nations that make up a region within the global international system also requires an updated diagnosis of its potential advantages and disadvantages. It must be assumed that these were assessed by the United Kingdom when it made the decision to begin the path towards its withdrawal from the European Union (the "Brexit"). This is what must be done constantly by each member country when evaluating the advantages and disadvantages of belonging to a certain "club" of nations of the same "neighborhood" or "region", with the characteristics, for example, of the European Union, but also of Mercosur itself.

At this time of commemoration of Mercosur's 30th anniversary, an article by José Octavio Bordón, the current President of the CARI, makes a contribution to this type of diagnostic by stating that "the current situation of Mercosur and, especially its future, may not be analyzed or projected without a comprehensive and updated vision. Neither can it be done without remembering its origins, its context and its meaning" (this article was published in the Opinion Section of Clarín newspaper, on Monday, March 29, 2021 under the title "Getting Mercosur out of stagnation and mistrust").

Bordón continues by stating "it is imperative to get Mercosur out of stagnation and mistrust". He adds that "neither today's world nor our countries are the same as they were three decades ago. It is imperative to renew ourselves in order to seek an updated convergence, deepen our strategic agreements, increase trade among our countries, articulate productive chains among ourselves and with other regions, in order to participate actively and with the greatest possible added value in the new, complex and demanding global trade".

On March 26, 2021, the face-to-face Summit of Mercosur countries could not take place. Instead, it was held virtually. This is not the same thing if what is needed is to develop dialogues at the highest level to facilitate the articulation of positions on the adaptation of Mercosur to the new global and regional realities and to the realities of each of its member countries. These dialogues are much more effective if they are conducted face-to-face.

The good news is that a new opportunity has opened up for an effective discussion among the governments of the four partner countries. We are referring to the meeting of Ministers of Foreign Affairs, scheduled for April 22, which will be preceded by a meeting of the Common Market Group, which is supposed to be the appropriate setting to adequately prepare for a ministerial meeting that may prove to be complex due to its agenda.

In the light of the current debate among Mercosur partners, at least two issues will require priority at the next Meeting of the Foreign Ministers, regardless of others that may also be considered relevant, such as Mercosur's position in the face of possible developments of the coronavirus pandemic and, above all, of the "post-pandemic" world.

The first issue refers to the level of effective protection that may derive from the application of the common external tariff, which is recognized as one of the fundamental instruments of Mercosur in Article 1 of the Treaty of Asuncion, with its subsequent impact on the interpretation of Article 2, which is a key to really understand the scope of the pact that gave rise to Mercosur. This is an example of the need to address the relevant Mercosur aspects from an economic, political and legal standpoint, both by those who have to make decisions on the effective protection that may derive from the level of the common external tariff, but also by those who have to analyze, interpret or apply them. Not including these three dimensions means running the risk of either not understanding what has been decided or of not grasping their true impact on reality. In addition, their inclusion is a necessary condition for the effectiveness of the so-called "jeitinho diplomacy ".

The second issue relates to the notion of making Mercosur more flexible. This is a proposal that generally, and in a more extreme version, refers to the idea that individual members may conclude free trade agreements with third countries. Such an idea has been put forward on several opportunities, especially by Uruguay, and even includes bilateral agreements with, for example, the USA or China. The interpretation that this is not possible within the current legal framework of the Treaty of Asuncion has led to the expression "Mercosur ties us down".

At times it has been interpreted that said restriction is the result of Decision 32 of the Mercosur Council, adopted in 2000. This has led to a proposed amendment. However, a simple reading of the Treaty makes such interpretation legally insufficient. Therefore, it is reasonable to understand that when there is any talk of "making Mercosur more flexible", in its most extreme version of allowing the signing of bilateral free trade agreements between members and third countries -and not by Mercosur as a whole-, what is perhaps being proposed is in fact a modification of the Treaty in order to make it possible. This is an example of a decision that can not be approached only from the perspective of one of the three dimensions mentioned above.

For all these reasons, what Jorge Neme, Secretary of International Economic Relations of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, said in a long interview with a Uruguayan radio station on March 29 makes sense. He asked the Uruguayan government to present, in writing, a proposal to make Mercosur more flexible and, at the same time, to explain how to implement a negotiation outside the bloc and what impacts it would have (the full text of the interview can be accessed on the website of radio station "Mundo 1170 am" on http://www.enperspectiva.net).

Depending on its actual scope, the second issue would probably require some amendment to the founding pact in order to be deemed feasible. If this were the case, it would make the proposal brought forward by Rubens Barbosa more relevant and opportune, in the sense that the time has come to convene the Diplomatic Conference provided for in article 47 of the Ouro Preto Protocol, with the aim of reviewing the institutional structure of Mercosur concerning the competence of its governance bodies. (See the article by Rubens Barbosa in the magazine Interesse Nacional included below as recommended reading).

In addition to the two issues mentioned above, there are other relevant items on Mercosur's agenda that will, sooner rather than later, need to be addressed at the highest political level. One of these refers to the joint proposal made by the industrialists of the four countries, which involves the development of policies that help transition from a primary economy to the manufacture of value-added products. Their approach views the issue of the trade negotiations to be developed by Mercosur in this perspective.

The proposal was made on the occasion of the 30th anniversary of the Treaty of Asuncion by the Presidents of the industrial business organizations of the four Mercosur countries, within the framework of the Chamber of Industrialists of Mercosur. (See the declaration of the industrialists in their virtual meeting of March 25, 2021, on "The future of Mercosur requires growth, competitiveness and integration", on http://www.ciu.com.uy/. See also the article by Paula Urien published in the Foreign Trade supplement of La Nación newspaper of April 1, 2021).


Recommended Reading:


  • Barbosa, Rubens, "Mercosur, 30 años", diario "El País", Montevideo, 13 de marzo 2021.
  • Barbosa, Rubens, "Após 30 anos, Mercosul Requer Freio de Arrumacao", Interesse Nacional, Ano 14, Número 53, Abril-Junho 2021, ps 41-44.
  • Bartesaghi, Ignacio (coordinador); Iglesias, Enrique; Masi, Fernando; Peña, Félix; Polónia Rios, Sandra, "Reflexiones sobre los 30 años del Mercosur", Universidad Católica del Uruguay - Fundación Konrad Adenauer, Uruguay, Montevideo 2021.
  • Bordón, José Octavio, "Sacar al Mercosur del estancamiento y la desconfianza", diario "La Nación", Sección Opinión, Buenos Aires, 29 de marzo 2021, p.22.
  • Bradford, Anu, "The Brussels Effects. How the European Union Rules the World", Oxford University Press, New York 2020.
  • Caumont, Jorge, "La desintegración comercial regional de los países miembros", Suplemento Comercio Exterior, diario "La Nación", 25 de marzo 2021, p.5.
  • Carmody, Patricio, "El desafío de un orden global para democracias y autocracias", diario "La Nación", Buenos Aires, 20 de marzo 2021.
  • Castro, Nelson, "La Salud de los Papas. Medicina, Complots y Fe desde León XIII hasta Francisco", Sudamericana, Buenos Aires, marzo 2021.
  • Dollar, David; Uang, Viping; Yao, Yang, "China 2049. Economic Challenges of a Rising Global Power", Brookings Institutions Press, Washington D.C. 2020.
  • Ferguson, Niall, "The Ascent of Money. A Financial History of the World", Penguin Books, second edition, 2018.
  • GRIDALE, "Segundo Congreso Latinoamericano de Integración Regional", Buenos Aires, 8 al 17 de marzo 2021, en www.gridale.org.
  • Hertz, Noreena, "The Lonely Century. How to Restore Human Connection in a World that´s Pulling Apart", Currency - Random House, New York 2021.
  • Ischinger, Wolfgang, "World in Danger. Germany and Europe in an Uncertain Time", Brookings Institute Press, Washingon D.C. 2021.
  • Kogan, Dario, "Reflexiones sobre el pasado, presente y desafíos (futuros?) del Mercosur", Megatrade, marzo 2021, ps.21 a 26, en www.revistametrade.com.ar).
  • Kribbe, Hans, "The Strongmen. European Encounters with Sovereign Power", Agenda publishing, UK 2020.
  • Levine, Robert M., "Brazilian Legacies", Routledge - Taylor & Francis Group, New York 2015.
  • Macri, Mauricio, "Primer Tiempo", Planeta, Buenos Aires, marzo 2021.
  • Milani, Carlos R.S., "Solidariedade e Interesse", Appris Editora, Curitiba 2018.
  • Piernanni, Simone, "Espejo Rojo. Nuestro Futuro Se Escribe en China", Ensayo EDHASA, Buenos Aires 2021.
  • Prestowitz, Clyde, "The World Turned Down, America, China, and the Struggle for Global Leadership". Yale University Press, New Haven 6 London 2021.
  • Ricupero, Rubens, "Do America First para America is Back Primeiros Dias de Diplomacia de Biden", Interesse Nacional, Ano 14, número 53, Abril-Junho de 2021, ps 19-24
  • Shambaugh, David, "Where Great Powers Meet. America & China in Southeast Asia", Oxford University Press, New York 2021.
  • Sica, Dante; Malamud, Andrés, "El Mercosur se hunde en la irrelevancia", diario "La Nación", Sección Opinión, Buenos Aires, 25 de marzo 2021, página 39.
  • Telo, Mario (editor), "European Union and New Regionalism. Competing Regionalism and Global Governance in a Post-Hegemonic Era", Routledge - Taylor & Francis Group, London and New York 2016
  • Telo, Mario (editor), "Reforming Multilateralism in Post-COVID times. For a more regionalised, binding and legitimate United Nations", FEPS - Foundation for European Progessive Studies, Brussels, December 2020.
  • Urien, Paula, "Mercosur: Cinco desafíos para un acuerdo que necesita renovarse", Nota de tapa, Suplemento Comercio Exterior. Diario "La Nación", 25 de marzo 2021, página 4 y 5.
  • Urien, Paula, "Aniversario. Que le piden los industriales al Mercosur", Suplemento Comercio Exterior del diario "la Nación", 1° de abril 2021, página 7.

Félix Peña Director of the Institute of International Trade at the ICBC Foundation. Director of the Masters Degree in International Trade Relations at Tres de Febrero National University (UNTREF). Member of the Executive Committee of the Argentine Council for International Relations (CARI). Member of the Evian Group Brains Trust. More information.

http://www.felixpena.com.ar | info@felixpena.com.ar


Subscribe to our newsletter to receive a monthly e-mail with the
latest articles published on this site.


 

Regresar a la página anterior | Top de la página | Imprimir artículo

 
Diseño y producción: Rodrigo Silvosa