On December 3 and 4 a workshop on “Regional Integration and Cooperation in Latin America” took place in Montevideo, while a twin event was held in Lima on the 7th of the same month.
The two workshops have been organized by the Virtual institute in cooperation with local universities members of the network, Universidad de la Republica in Montevideo and Ponticia Universidad Catolica in Lima, and have been designed to present the main results of a homonymous joint research project funded by the Government of Spain.
The goal of the event was to stimulate academic and policy discussion at a historical juncture which may potentially favour the re-launch of regionalism in Latin America. In fact, the recent financial crisis opens an interesting window of opportunity in this respect since monetary and fiscal schemes developed at the regional level may represent second-best policy responses in the absence of a coherent global action. This, in turn, increases the attractiveness of deepening integration and the commitment of policymakers in the negotiations round to come.
The papers presented covered a wide variety of topics, from the legal aspects of regional integration agreements to the monetary coordination mechanisms developed in the region, from the technological asymmetries among countries to the different industrial policies adopted. They also analyze different countries in the region.
The two cities chosen focused the discussion respectively on Mercosur and the Andean Community, which represent, by far, the most important regional integration agreements in Latin America. The discussion in Montevideo touched on, among other things, Mercosur’s model of a regional economic integration and the difficulties encountered in reconciling dramatically different politico-economic agendas as the ones of Brazil and Argentina. Furthermore, participants emphasized the role of regional agreements as a device to lock in macroeconomic policy improvements and to address the increasingly urgent challenges of strengthening standards to protect the environment and labour.
The discussion in Lima added to this picture a specific focus on the role of integration for regional income convergence. The risks of failing to address extreme regional inequality (both between and within countries) are in fact increasingly evident in this part of the region and are reflected in political polarization, in weakening support for democracy and for the market model, in crime and urban violence, and in unsustainable migration pressures.
Finally, the role of United States and its trade integration agenda and the recent tensions at the borders between Colombia and Venezuela were also debated.