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  Félix Peña

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Towards a new stage of regional integration in Latin America?

por Félix Peña
September 2022


Two recent events contribute to anticipate the beginning of a new stage of integration among Latin American countries. These events reflect recent political changes resulting from the trends towards the appreciation of democracy and economic and social development that still characterize Latin American countries. They are inserted in a highly uncertain global context where it becomes increasingly difficult to hold optimistic visions about the future of the political and economic realities at global scale and in each different region.

The first event is the reestablishment of diplomatic relations between two relevant countries in the Andean area of South America.

The second event is related to the results of the meeting of Presidents of the Andean Community of Nations that took place on August 29 in Lima, Peru.

The development of these two events will have to be closely watched in order to have a clearer picture of the effects and scope of an eventual new stage in Latin American regional integration. Depending on how they evolve and together with other events that may be imagined from a necessary and desirable positive vision of the future of the region, they may contribute to the emergence of this new stage.

It is possible to highlight two recent events that contribute to anticipate the beginning of an eventual new stage in regional integration among Latin American countries. Following them closely would at least provide arguments to reverse the trend that has been evident in recent times, towards a certain irrelevance and a lack of credibility of the policies and agreements that are linked to the concept of economic integration among the countries of our region.

These events have taken place between countries that belong to an area that has led South American initiatives towards greater regional integration, the so-called Andean Group, which later became the current Andean Community of Nations (CAN). It has been over fifty years of different forms and intensities of cooperation between nations belonging to a valuable geographic sub-region of Latin America, characterized by the influence of the Andes Mountains.

Moreover, these are facts that reflect recent political changes that originate in the trend towards the appreciation of democracy and economic and social development, which continues to characterize Latin American countries. They are inserted in a turbulent and uncertain global context, which makes it difficult to hold optimistic views on the future of political and economic realities, both at global scale and within the different regions.

A first fact to be highlighted is the recent reestablishment of diplomatic relations between two important countries in the Andean area and the Latin American region. We are referring to Colombia and Venezuela, neighboring countries that played an important role in the founding years of the then Andean Group.

owever, the fact that diplomatic relations have now been re-established, are stable and therefore normal, does not necessarily mean that the conditions for ensuring future joint work between these neighboring nations can be effectively met. However, it does signal a change that was necessary, in this case, in order to take further steps towards the stability and deepening of possible joint work.

The second significant fact is the XXII Meeting of the Andean Presidential Council that took place on August 29. Its four full members are Bolivia, Colombia, Ecuador and Peru. The original version of the current Andean Community of Nations was created by the Cartagena Agreement in 1969. In the first stage of the former Andean Group, Chile and Venezuela were also members.

The meeting of the four Andean Presidents was held in Lima (see the full text of the Declaration of the XXII Meeting of the Andean Presidential Council at It is worth mentioning point 17 of the Declaration in which the Presidents ``expressed their interest in working towards the expansion of the sub-regional bloc, and in this sense the Member States will analyze the convenience of inviting other countries of the region to join the mechanism, with the purpose of constituting an expanded, robust bloc that increases trade, favors social and economic development and promotes the effective integration of Latin America".

Pedro Castillo, President of Peru, referred specifically to achieving the return of Chile and Venezuela, and to incorporating Argentina as a member of the Andean Community of Nations (CAN). Regarding the incorporation of Argentina, Castillo said, "Why not think of a sub-regional integration that, based on the idea of an Andean homeland, reaches the sister Republic of Argentina, with which we share not only the Andes mountain range but also this common and historical heritage of the original peoples of Tahuantinsuyo". In turn, President Gustavo Petro of Colombia referred to the need for the CAN to be extended to Chile, Venezuela and Argentina in order to strengthen its voice on the world stage. The President of Bolivia, Luis Arce, proposed strengthening the rapprochement between the CAN and Mercosur with the articulation, complementation and convergence between both blocs in areas of mutual interest (on the points mentioned in this paragraph, see the Telam Digital article dated August 29, 2022 and the article published on August 31, 2022 in "Página 12" under the title "The Andean Community is looking for new members").

Depending on how the two above-mentioned developments unfold, together with others that can be imagined at least from a necessary and advisable positive vision of the region's future, they may contribute to the emergence of a new stage of regional integration.

This will be more feasible if the efforts aimed at joint work among the countries of the region are supported by actions conceived and advanced in the development of credible rules at the multilateral level of the WTO and at the multiple plurilateral levels that have an effective global and interregional scope. They might also be strengthened depending on the quality, intensity and effectiveness of the agreements that the Latin American countries (especially the South American ones) conclude at the interregional level with each of the major global competitors, in particular, with the European Union, the United States and China.

As we have pointed out previously in this monthly newsletter, if properly used, the rules already included in the integration agreements between the countries of the region, such as the 1980 Treaty of Asunción that created ALADI and, in particular, its provisions on sectorial and partial scope agreements, can contribute to the development of effective strategies for joint work at regional level.

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Félix Peña es Director del Instituto de Comercio Internacional de la Fundación ICBC; Director de la Maestría en Relaciones Comerciales Internacionales de la Universidad Nacional de Tres de Febrero (UNTREF); Miembro del Comité Ejecutivo del Consejo Argentino para las Relaciones Internacionales (CARI). Miembro del Brains Trust del Evian Group. Ampliar trayectoria. |

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