BUENOS AIRES – Experts and public officials convened by the Inter-American Development Bank called on Tuesday for greater Latin American alignment and urged Mercosur to seek broader integration among its member states during a seminar in Buenos Aires.
Amid stagnation in international trade and rising protectionism and nationalism in the political realm, the participants in the forum entitled “The futures of Mercosur: New paths for regional integration” urged Latin America to seek opportunities by going against those trends with an eye toward improving productivity and quality of life.
“We’re deeply aware of the importance of inserting ourselves into the world,” said Argentine government cabinet chief Marcos Peña, who inaugurated the forum via telephone.
He said that the debate about the role of Mercosur – the trade bloc comprising Paraguay, Argentina, Brazil and Uruguay, with Venezuela’s rights under the pact suspended since last December – is a “central” question for the future both in Argentina and throughout the region.
“It’s the natural platform from which we can intelligently insert ourselves into the world, relating with all blocs,” said Peña before stressing that the Mauricio Macri government sees greater integration as beneficial goal.
However, Peña admitted that “the first thing we have to do is resolve the problems in our own house.”
Along those lines, he said that Mercosur’s integration should be understood as a “state policy” above and beyond institutional and political fluctuations.
The participants said that the new economic and political normal, but also the current technological and environmental context, is very different from that which prevailed when Mercosur was founded and careful reflection is required before moving forward with a “positive agenda” that will help regional growth.
Putting an end to customs and bureaucratic obstacles, emphasizing innovation and reaching free trade agreements with other big blocs were some of the challenges mentioned at the forum, along with the desire to strengthen the ties between Mercosur and the Pacific Alliance, which includes Chile, Peru, Mexico and Colombia.