REALITIES AND DREAMS IN THE CONSTRUCTION OF A REGION
Founding moments in the long and unfinished process of development of
Latin American integration.
by Félix Peña
English translation: Isabel Romero Carranza
A little more than fifteen years after the publication
of the book "Momentos y Perspectivas" ("Moments and Perspectives"),
I confirm the impression that I had then in the sense that the continuous
tension between dreams and realities is at the heart of the major experiences
of joint work, with an intention of permanence, between sovereign and
contiguous nations who share common goals and interests but that do not
necessarily wish to resign their sovereignty. I can also confirm what
I pointed out when observing what has been achieved in the South of the
Americas in terms of the development of an area of peace and in terms
of the significant increase in cooperative interdependence. Although the
task of our countries has been erratic and is still unfinished, the overall
balance remains a positive one.
A positive outlook on the travelled path does not mean imagining that
the initial momentum and the agreed trajectory will materialize as defined
in the founding moments. On the contrary, the experience accumulated in
Latin America in the last sixty years indicates that the process of building
an area for joint work shared by a group of countries needs to be redefined
From the experience acquired in the Latin American region, as well
as in other regions, we can identify those factors that help explain the
founding moments and later their adaptation to the changing international,
regional and domestic realities of each country. There are three factors
that would seem to be the most necessary to help materialize any initiative
of permanent joint work between sovereign nations. These are: the intensity
and continuity of the political will of the leadership of at least the
most relevant members of the integration process; the effectiveness and
sustainability of the joint work methods chosen at the moment of foundation
and in the subsequent adaptations, and the quality of the agreed ground
rules, especially the balance achieved between the requirements for predictability
and flexibility, which do not necessarily have to be contradictory.
Over time, integration processes can thus be the result of different
moments that affect the definition of the joint work among the participating
countries. In this perspective, it is always convenient to identify which
have been the most relevant founding moments in a given region.
Two of these moments can be detected in the Latin American and South
American regions. One is reflected in the proposals to enhance the LAIA
and the other has to do with Mercosur. They are directly related to the
necessary articulation between the Pacific Alliance and Mercosur, for
which the LAIA can play a very important role.
In our book "Moments and Perspectives. Argentina in the world and
in Latin America" (Eduntref, Buenos Aires 2003), we compiled some
articles written between 1968 and 2003, referring to the international
insertion of Argentina and its participation in the development of integration
processes in Latin America. Nowadays, our project -or shall we say dream-
is to prepare a second volume with the compilation of some articles published
during the period 2003-2018.
In the introduction to the mentioned work, I point out that in re-reading
what was written and appreciating the expectations of integration that
later did not materialize-even the mistakes in diagnosis that I often
made-I become aware of how easy it is for passion for what can be achieved
to lead to confuse illusions with realities and desires with possibilities.
Some fifteen years after the publication of the book and observing the
most recent developments in the processes of regional integration, including
Mercosur itself, I confirm the impression that I had then in the sense
that the continuing tension between dreams and realities is at the heart
of the major actual experiences of joint work, with an intention of permanence,
between contiguous sovereign nations that share objectives and interests
but that do not necessarily desire to stop being sovereign.
I also confirm what I pointed out at the time in the sense that, when
observing what has been achieved in the South of the Americas in terms
of the development of an area of peace and a substantial increase of cooperative
interdependence, the impression remains that, even when the task of our
countries has been erratic and unfinished, the overall balance is a positive
A positive outlook of the travelled path involves not expecting that
the founding momentum and the agreed trajectory materialize exactly as
they were conceived at the initial stage. The experiences gathered in
Latin America in the last sixty years indicate that the process of developing
an area for joint work by a set of contiguous sovereign nations requires
to be redefined continuously. Indeed, this has happened in other regions,
as we have observed in the process of European integration and, especially,
with the Brexit.
This continuous redefinition does not necessarily contradict the logical
demands for predictability in the goals and ground rules, shaped by those
who will take decisions -especially for productive investment- based on
the integration of the corresponding economic spaces.
As we have pointed out on other occasions when assessing the situation
of an actual process of integration between countries that share a given
geographical space, such as the case of Mercosur, it is important to be
able to detect at each specific moment if the differences that may eventually
arise between the participating countries reflect an existential crisis
or just a methodological one. An existential crisis becomes clear when
one or more countries prefer to withdraw from the integration process
or seriously consider such option. This would be the case today of the
Brexit in the EU. A methodological crisis refers to one or more aspects
of how to work together, that is, which are the objectives, institutions,
rules and mechanisms that are most convenient -and feasible- to use in
the joint effort between the partners.
From the experience accumulated in Latin America and in other regions,
some factors help explain their founding moments and their subsequent
adaptation to the new international, regional or domestic realities of
the participating countries.
In our opinion, three factors seem to be necessary for a permanent joint
work effort between contiguous nations to be viable. These are:
- the intensity and continuity of the political will of the leadership
of at least the most relevant countries of the corresponding integration
process, fueled by a shared vision of the challenges that originate
in their respective external fronts;
- the effectiveness and sustainability of the joint work methods selected
in the founding moments or in the subsequent adaptations, and
- the quality of the agreed ground rules and of their effective application
and, especially, the balance that is achieved between requirements for
predictability and flexibility, which do not necessarily have to be
Over time, integration processes can be the result of different moments
which affect the definition of the scope and methodology of the joint
work among participating nations. In this perspective, it is always advisable
to detect which have been the most relevant founding moments in a given
Two highly interconnected founding moments can be identified. on the
one hand, at the Latin American regional level and, on the other hand,
at the South American sub-regional level.. The first is evinced today
in the proposals to enhance the Latin American Integration Association
(LAIA) and the other involves Mercosur. Additionally, both are directly
related to the necessary articulation between the countries of the Pacific
Alliance and those of the Mercosur (the so-called the Group of Eight),
for which the ALADI can play a significant role.
These founding moments were reflected by the signing of the Treaty of
Montevideo on February 18, 1960, by which the Latin American Free Trade
Association (LAFTA) was created and at the Uruguaiana Summit, on April
20-22, 1961, between the Presidents Arturo Frondizi, from Argentina, and
Janio Quadros, from Brazil. They can be considered important milestones
due to their impact on the subsequent development of the current processes
of Latin American integration.
In both cases, the relevance of the role of Argentina and Brazil can
be observed. In the first case, the drive of what were at that time the
two economies with greater impact in intraregional trade-especially in
the South American space- together with the leading role of Chile and
later of Mexico, and certainly of the ECLAC, led to the creation of the
LAFTA, which was the first institution specifically oriented to the development
of commercial integration with a Latin American scope. The methodology
used had to fit the requirements, especially those from the US, for its
recognition in the GATT, due to its adaptation to the then prevailing
interpretation of its Article XXIV. Hence, the use of concepts and methods
that did not conform to what was originally proposed by the countries
that promoted the negotiation of the Treaty, as well as the ECLAC.
In the second case, the "Pact of Uruguaiana" was the expression
of the convergence between Argentina and Brazil, that is, two key protagonists
in the South American geographical space, at a relevant moment for Latin
American relations with the US, especially because of the increasing influence
that the Cuban revolution was beginning to have in the hemisphere and
in international relations. (On the Pact of Uruguayana and its relevance
at the beginning of the journey that led, first to the binational agreement
between Argentina and Brazil and then to the beginning of Mercosur, see
the books by Juan Archibaldo Lanús, "From Chapultepec to the
Beagle, Argentine Foreign Policy: 1945-1980" and Oscar Camilión,
"Political Memoirs. From Frondizi to Menem (1956-1996)". See
also the article by Daniel Amicci,"The course towards the Uruguayana
Summit: maximum expression of the approach between Argentina and Brazil
during developmentalism ", listed as recommended reading at the end
of this newsletter, and Félix Luna, "Dialogues with Frondizi",
Editorial Desarrollo, Buenos Aires 1963, p. 95 to 122).
In both cases, the importance of a shared interpretation of the external
challenges by the political leaders was evinced, within a context where
common visions prevailed among the potential partners. The relevance of
the "human factor" is also evident in order to materialize a
common political will and translate the political leadership into actions.
This fact was very clear in the case of President Frondizi's team and
was manifested through the key roles of Carlos Manuel Muñiz, Oscar
Camilión, Rogelio Frigerio, Carlos Florit, Roberto Alemann, Arnaldo
Musich and Cecilio Morales, among others.
- Amicci, Daniel, "La trayectoria hacia la Cumbre de Uruguayana:
máxima expresión de la aproximación entre Argentina
y Brasil durante el desarrollismo", SciELO Org. México 2012.
- Armstrong, Shiro, "Time for global leadership, Japan-style",
East Asia Forum, 3 February 2019, https://www.eastasiaforum.org/.
- Bartesaghi, Ignacio; Melgar, Natalia, "Análisis del proceso
de convergencia iniciado entre la Alianza del Pacífico y el Mercosur",
Konrad Adenauer Stiftung, Análisis & Perspectivas, Nº
23, Diciembre 2018, en https://ucu.edu.uy/.
- Bobbio, Norberto; Matteucci; Pasquino, Gianfranco, "Diccionario
de Política", Siglo XXI Editores, México 2008.
- Camilión, Oscar, "Memorias Políticas. De Frondizi
a Menem (1956-1996), Conversaciones con Guillermo Gasió, Planeta/Todo
es Historia, Buenos Aires 2000.
- Ezquerro, María Luz, "La Guerra Fría y la Caída
de Arturo Frondizi", Universidad Nacional de Córdoba, Centro
de Estudios Avanzados, Estudios (Otoño 2006).
- Hazony, Yoram, "The Virtue of Nationalism", Basic Books
- Intal, Ponciano, "Time for bolder steps from ASEAN", East
Asia Forum, 24 February 2019, en https://www.eastasiaforum.org/.
- Judis, John B., "The Nationalist Revival. Trade, Inmigration,
and the Revolt against Glbalization", Columbia Global Reports,
New York 2018.
- Katzenstein, Peter J.; Seybert, Lucia A. (eds.), "Protean Power.
Exploring the Uncertain and Unexpected in World Politics", Cambridge
Studies in International Relations, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge
- Lafer, Celso, "Relacões Internacionais, Política
Externa e Diplomacia Brasileira. Pensamneto e Acão", 2 Vols.,
Fundacão Alexandre de Gusmao, Colecao Relacões Internacionais,
Brasilia 2018 en http://funag.gov.br/.
- Lanús, Juan Archibaldo, "La integración económica
en América Latina", Editorial Juárez, Buenos Aires
- Lanús, Juan Archibaldo, "De Chapultepec al Beagle. Política
Exterior Argentina 1945-1980", Emecé, Buenos Aires 1984.
- Miyamoto, Shiguenoli, "O Brasil e a América Latina: Opcões
Políticas e Integracão Regional", Cadernos PROLAM/USP
ano 8, Vol. I. 2009.
- Murcia, Walter; Oddone, Nahuel, Rodriguez Vásquez, Horacio,
"La integración centroamericana: orígenes, avances
y desafíos", Cuadernos de Cooperación Internacional
y Desarrollo, Cooperación Internacional, Instituto Mora-CONACYT-Universidad
Iberoamericana, México 2015.
- Parag, Khanna, "The Future is Asian", Simon & Schuster,
New York 2019.
- Press-Barnathan, Galia; Fine, Ruth; Kacowicz, Arie M. (eds.), "The
Relevance of Regions in a Globalized World. Bridging the Social Sciences-Humanities
Gap", Routledge, London and New York 2019.
- Rapoport, Mario (dir.), "Historia oral de la política
exterior argentina (1930-1966)", Editorial Octubre, Buenos Aires
- Rapoport, Mario (dir.), "Historia oral de la política
exterior argentina (1966-2016)", Editorial Octubre, Buenos Aires
- Runciman, David, "How Democracy Ends", Basic Books, New
- Sahdev, Garima, "Sub-regionalism is superseding a stagnant SAARC",
East Asia Forum, 23 February 2019, en https://www.eastasiaforum.org/.
- Sanguinetti, Fabrizio, "China y América Latina: del Tercer
Mundo al Sur Global", en https://www.academia.edu/.
- Williams, Mack, "China's behind-the-scenes role in Trump-Kim
talks", East Asia Forum, 25 February 2019, https://www.eastasiaforum.org/.
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