My first reaction to the question "is there more than a semantic
difference between concertación and negotiation?" was: "They
are different concepts, different modalities of interaction bewteen nations".
As I organizaed my ideas for this presentation, I found more aspects
that led me to an act of rebellion -that is to leave aside the original
objective of my presentation that was to analyze the cases of Mercosur
and FTAA-. The reason is simple: the FTAA has such uncertain future that
it does not deserve to be the object of a comparative analysis with something
that it´s a reality beyond its limitations and defects.
So, I decided to make the comparison of Mercosur with the European Union
- actually with the old European Community -. This should allow us to
compare the founding moments of both processes. In my opinion it's in
the foundational moments where we can better try to understand the origins
of the working methods that are employed in any concrete economic integration
The central idea I want to develop is that, in the perspective of building
a consensual integration space between sovereign and contiguous nations
- as it's the case of both the European Union and Mercosur -, the concepts
of concertación and negotiation are complementary. The eventual
success or failure of a concrete process greatly depends on the ability
of building institutions that could reflect this natural complementation
between the concertación and the negotiation dimensions of the
working together idea - in a systematic and permanent way - among two
or more sovereign nations.
The processes of the European Union and Mercosur are very exotic from
a historical point of view. They are recent. We know that what has been
historically normal among neighbor countries or neighbors autonomous units
of power is the predominance of the logic of conflict and, eventually,
war. It has been said that the history of wars have been mainly that of
civil wars - wars between neighbors -.
In the cases of the European Union and of Mercosur, the main elements
that distinguish both integration processes, were the consensual character
of the association, where nobody forces anybody to enter, as well as the
vocation of permanence in the associative pact among sovereign nations
that are not willing to stop being sovereign.
This is a central issue. In both cases, nations work together because
they have reached the conclusion that it is in their benefit and they
want to achieve mutual gains.
The sustentation of the original social pact - the foundational pact
- is the reciprocity of national interests. From the point of view of
each member country, rules are complied because it is in their national
interest. Perhaps it could not be convenient for a country to comply with
the rules in a particular case. However most probably it is convenient
for that country to preserve the system because for instance it has firms
with trade, fixed actives and investments all over the region. And so
it will comply with the rules even in cases in which it could no be convenient
to do so.
Integration processes such as EU and Mercosur, are different from more
simple free trade agreements, for example, those between Chile and the
United States, or Australia and the United States. In those cases - as
it is the case of NAFTA - the rules of the game are set in the founding
treaty. It's a kind of one shot agreement. There is nothing substantive
to negotiate afterwards. Instead in the cases of the EU and of Mercosur,
the original pact is a framework for further development of deep integration
through highly complicated negotiations. That's the reason why they need
to build institutions that allow them to put together their national interests
in a dynamic way - within the framework of a common vision - during the
period of development of the integration process. And in both cases it
is a period without a precise end.
Let's look to the initial process of the European integration, especially
to the formation of the European Community of Coal and Steel (ECCS), which
was born from the Schumann Plan in 1950. It created a snow ball effect
that derived latter on today European Union. There is where we found the
word "concertación" applied to this kind of phenomenon.
The word "concertación" derives from the French Plan
experience. Jean Monnet was who developed this methodology of "pooling"
of interests within a common vision. It is worthy to read his Memories.
A fascinating man, son of a producer of Cognac, he has not studied in
the university. Since he was young he started to practice his ideas through
the organization of provision pools from the United States to Europe during
the First and then the Second World War.
The methodology and spirit of the First French Plan is well told by
Pierre Massé, also a former Commissaire du Plan, in his book "Le
plan ou l´ anti-hasard". Massé says that the spirit
of the Plan was the concertación of the economic and social forces
of the nation within the framework of common goals and visions. It was
mainly about associating workers and businessmen in an economic pact that
concerned them and to develop the feeling of participation founded in
This experience served as a precedent for the creation of the High Authority,
which was a central organ of the European Community of Coal and Steal.
The idea of concertación was in the center of the Monnet-Schumann
1950 Plan that originated the European integration process. The main idea
of this Plan was to overcome the trend toward conflict and war among European
nations. It was a political idea with an economic dimension. Perhaps that
explains its strength.
The main original idea has been a real success. Most of it is explained
through institutions that allowed member countries - even with an important
degree of asymmetries in their relative power - to work together achieving
a reasonable degree of equilibrium among their sometimes strongly different
national interests. Within the framework of those institutions each country
defended their national interests through hard negotiations. But at the
same time they were able to put those interests within the framework of
common goals and visions. They achieved a highly efficient pattern of
concertación of those national interests.
I review these antecedents to focus on the Real Academia Dictionary's
definition of the word "concertar" and the word "negotiate",
and to analyze their eventual differences. One of the definitions of negotiate
is to try through the diplomatic way, from state to state, an issue like
a trade alliance treaty and so on. Another definition says to deal with
public or private issues aiming to its best achievement. That is nearer
the definitions of concertar: to make a pact, to compromise, to deal,
to agree on a business. Very close to negotiate. But then there is another
meaning of concertar: to bring into line different goals or objectives
or intentions. It's interesting that "concertar" has not English
translation. In some way, the concept is near to "harmonize".
In my opinion the European experience demonstrate us that there is a
strong link between these two concepts when sovereign nations are trying
to develop an economic integration process among them. What experience
shows - and in the case of Mercosur was my own experience as Argentinean
negotiator in the founding moment - is that in this kind of processes
the key of success depends greatly in the capacity of its institutions
to develop at the same time, negotiations among governments and concertación
of their national interests.
Common institutions allow member countries to develop a common vision
based in their concrete national interests. That implies to recognize
a natural dialectic tension between both the national and regional dimension.
In the case of the ECSC, this tension was not denied but on the contrary
it was institutionalized through the decision making process and the prevalence
of common rules. The common vision was assured by the High Authority.
And the prevalence of the rule of law was the main task of the Luxemburg
Court of Justice.
In the idea of "harmony" of the English translation of "concertación"
we found the equivalent to an orchestra. The "concertador" would
be the orchestra conductor. They all have a common script with fixed notes,
mainly the agreed rules of the founding pact. That ´s how during
sixty years the European nations were able to overcome their antagonisms
and instead, they developed a relative efficient and dynamic pattern of
working together. They transformed a disruptive dialectic of national
interest in a creative process of cooperation and integration. They did
so through a strong political vision and will, but mainly trough an institutional
framework allowing them to succeed, at least till now.
In the case of Mercosur we have also an integration process among sovereign
nations. All of them want to preserve their sovereignty. As in the case
of Europe the idea of a regional dimension is based in their capacity
of achieving their national interests. This regional dimension is not
the result of any kind of hypothetic supranational rationality. It is
an integration process that is a result of a permanent pact, with common
long term goals, immediate compromises and an embryonic institutional
But the main problem with Mercosur is that as time passed by, what prevailed
has been the idea of negotiation against the idea of "concertación".
There has not been till now a clear idea of how to institutionalize the
function of "concertar". In Europe, "concertación"
would not have been possible without a "concertador". The "concertador"
is not some body that imposes obligations. On the contrary, is some body
that orchestrates, that helps to unveil the common interest. It is a go
How can we explain that this could not be achieved? I would say that
there is a kind of open resistance from Brazil and Argentina to accept
the idea of a "go between" among them. They have not accepted
the idea of having a common organ - a "concertador" - that could
develop the function of "concertación". In the case of
Brazil that could be explained by its size. But that has been also the
case of Argentina, even if in the recent years it has lost its relative
History shows that bigger countries in this kind of processes try to
keep their national interest and their freedom of action, leading to a
precarious institutionalization and legality.
The concrete fact is that there has been a deaf resistance to the idea
of any kind of institutionalization of Mercosur that may lead to a common
vision within the region. That explains perhaps the strong resentment
from Uruguay and Paraguay to the economic integration idea prevalent both
in Argentina and Brazil.
In my opinion the main challenge for Mercosur is to develop institutions
that allow member countries to defend their national interests through
negotiations, but at the same time to put them together within common
goals and a common vision. That is to obtain a relative capacity of concertación.
I conclude by saying that I visualize in this kind of consensual economic
integration processes both functions - negotiation and concertación
- as complementary. This implies to have institutions that assure a relative
equilibrium between each function. Not understanding these would signify
to give away the political advantages of this kind of process. This lesson
from the European experience has not been yet fully understood in the
MASSÉ, Pierre (1965), "Le Plan ou l´Anti-Hasard",
MONNET, Jean (1976), "Mémoires", LibrairieFayard, Paris.