MERCOSUR: In search of a New Agenda

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Mar 2004
MERCOSUR made substantial achievements in a short period. There was a great deal of liberalization; intra-regional trade increased significantly; a certain sense of regional belonging was inculcated among national publics; and the regional project served as a pretext for national adjustments. Inconsistencies nonetheless persisted between the project¿s goals, on the one hand, and its institutions and mechanisms on the other; there have been persistent gaps between rhetorical aims and concrete practices; and by the turn of the present decade various subregional crises seemed to call MERCOSUR¿s relevance into question. Against that background the Inter-American Bank and the Getulio Vargas Foundation organized a seminar in Rio de Janeiro on June 5 and 6, 2003. The meeting brought together a small group of trade and integration specialists to examine the bloc¿s achievements and problems thus far, and to debate possible elements of a new subregional agenda. Full versions of the papers presented at the seminar are available separately in this Working Paper Series. Throughout the various sessions of the event, moreover, a number of issues recurred in different contexts and were debated from different angles. For those reasons, in general terms this report on the seminar attempts neither a comprehensive summary of each paper nor a session-by-session synthesis of the proceedings. Rather, it takes a thematic approach in an effort to demonstrate which issues emerged as particularly significant in the flow of debate, which arguments were accorded the greatest validity, in which area divergences were apparent, and where the grounds for consensus lay. In outlining the debate in this way, every effort has been made to avoid taking individual viewpoints out of context, while including those opinions in the overall thematic structure.