Since its formal inception in 1986, at the meeting between Presidents
Raúl Alfonsín of Argentina and José Sarney of Brazil,
the South American integration process known as the Southern Common Market
(Mercosur) has had the active participation of South America's two largest
economies, Brazil and Argentina.
This year, the two countries will hold the Presidency of Mercosur: Argentina
in the first semester and Brazil in the second. Their Presidents will
then have an opportunity to influence the much-needed renewal of the process
that formally began almost forty years ago.
Over thirty years since its formal creation in 1991, Mercosur today requires
a decisive political and economic boost in order to adapt it to the new
global and regional international realities, including those of its own
The presidential terms to be served by Argentina and then Brazil, working
together with Paraguay and Uruguay, provide an opportunity to translate
the necessary political momentum into concrete decisions and actions to
revitalize the common project with the joint work of the four current
partners and to increase its credibility and effectiveness. Such an impulse,
within the framework of a joint agenda for Mercosur's international insertion,
could also contribute to strengthening the international presence of the
Three factors make the joint effort between the two countries advisable
and possible in the exercise of their respective Mercosur presidential
terms. They imply recognizing that both countries have a strong responsibility
and a leading role in promoting the adaptation of the common project to
the new global and regional realities.
The first factor is that, as it currently stands, the original Mercosur
project has gradually lost a significant part of its credibility and effectiveness.
The second factor is that any attempt to update it will require the concerted
efforts (both political and economic) of all member countries, including,
of course, the two main economies of the area. The third factor is that
President Lula da Silva, who in his previous terms had a key role in promoting
a greater degree of regional integration, has demonstrated over the years
his appreciation of the idea of joint work, not only among Mercosur members
but also with the other South American countries, all within the broader
and more complex Latin American regional scope.
The goal of renewing Mercosur would not only require modifying the substance
of its legal instruments and institutional mechanisms. It will also call
for a good dose of imagination and technical capacity to achieve an effective
concerted effort among the member countries, in order to adapt the rules
and methods of working together to the new regional and global realities.
It is not, therefore, an easy task, nor does it necessarily have a guaranteed
Among others, three fronts of joint work between the partners will demand
special attention. Each of these will require not only technical and political
capacity but, above all, the ability to put into practice the vocation
of joint work between nations that have both common and diverging interests.
A first front is the necessary capacity to have a good diagnosis on the
reforms that are required in the working methods used by Mercosur in order
to make decisions that can be effective (that penetrate reality) and efficient
(that produce the desired effects).
A second front is related to the procedures that would allow a reasonable
balance between the goal of having flexible rules and the need to obtain
a sufficient level of legal security in the joint work between the partners.
The third front is that of the actions that may be necessary to provide
the Mercosur Secretariat with a degree of organization that allows it
to fulfill the function of technical preparation of decisions that reflect
a real coordination of efforts among the partners. Perhaps this last front
is the one that should have a priority on Mercosur's work agenda for 2023,
the period in which the presidency will be held first by Argentina and
then by Brazil.
In the coming year, however, Mercosur will also need to promote initiatives
aimed at materializing and, above all, taking full advantage of the outcome
of the delayed negotiations for the association agreement with the European
Union. Without prejudice to the issues that explain the delays incurred
in the last three years, it will be necessary that those issues related
to climate change acquire a strong presence in the bi-regional agenda.
In addition, the link between the current bi-regional agenda and the agenda
that Mercosur and the EU develop with other countries of South America
should also be intensified.
A special priority for Mercosur should be its still fledgling agenda
of preferential trade relations with the countries of Asia and Africa,
two other regions of growing relative importance in international trade.
We will address this topic in a later article.