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Power and Regionalism in Latin America

The Politics of MERCOSUR

Laura Gómez-Mera

Publication Year: 2013

In Power and Regionalism in Latin America: The Politics of MERCOSUR, Laura Gómez-Mera examines the erratic patterns of regional economic cooperation in the Southern Common Market (MERCOSUR), a political-economic agreement among Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay, Uruguay, and, recently, Venezuela that comprises the world’s fourth-largest regional trade bloc. Despite a promising start in the early 1990s, MERCOSUR has had a tumultuous and conflict-ridden history. Yet, it has survived, expanding in membership and institutional scope. What explains its survival, given a seemingly contradictory mix of conflict and cooperation? Through detailed empirical analyses of several key trade disputes between the bloc's two main partners, Argentina and Brazil, Gómez-Mera proposes an explanation that emphasizes the tension between and interplay of two sets of factors: power asymmetries within and beyond the region, and domestic-level politics. Member states share a common interest in preserving MERCOSUR as a vehicle for increasing the region’s leverage in external negotiations. Gómez-Mera argues that while external vulnerability and overlapping power asymmetries have provided strong and consistent incentives for regional cooperation in the Southern Cone, the impact of these systemic forces on regional outcomes also has been crucially mediated by domestic political dynamics in the bloc’s two main partners, Argentina and Brazil. Contrary to conventional wisdom, however, the unequal distribution of power within the bloc has had a positive effect on the sustainability of cooperation. Despite Brazil’s reluctance to adopt a more active leadership role in the process of integration, its offensive strategic interests in the region have contributed to the durability of institutionalized collaboration. However, as Gómez-Mera demonstrates, the tension between Brazil's global and regional power aspirations has also added significantly to the bloc's ineffectiveness.

Published by: University of Notre Dame Press


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p. C-C

Title Page, Copyright Page

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pp. i-vi


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pp. vii-viii

List of Tables

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pp. ix-x

List of Figures

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pp. xi-xii

List of Abbreviations

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pp. xiv-xvi


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pp. xvii-xviii

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Chapter One: Introduction

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pp. 1-12

Regions have gained centrality in the post–September 11 international system. As a result, students of international and comparative politics have turned to the growing role of emerging regional powers, such as Russia, China, India, and Brazil, in the face of the alleged decline in American hegemony. But what exactly is the role of these regional powers...

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Chapter Two: Patterns of Conflict and Cooperation in the Southern Cone

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pp. 13-35

A puzzling combination of conflict and cooperation has characterized Argentine-Brazilian commercial and diplomatic relations since the 1990s. What explains these erratic and unsteady dynamics of regional cooperation? In answering this question, we will consider four competing theoretical approaches to regional cooperation, which focus, respectively,...

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Chapter Three: Systemic Incentives, Domestic Constraints, and Regional Cooperation

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pp. 36-60

This chapter presents a theoretical framework that explains the erratic patterns of conflict and cooperation characterizing the evolution of regionalism in the Southern Cone. In line with neoclassical realist explanations in International Relations (IR), the approach developed here emphasizes the complex ways in which systemic incentives and domestic political ...

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Chapter Four: The Automobile Sector Crisis

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pp. 61-94

The automobile sector has been a recurrent source of commercial friction between Argentina and Brazil since the creation of MERCOSUR. In 1991, the car industry was excluded from the program of automatic tariff liberalization established by the Treaty of Asunción and placed under a special regime of managed trade. Four years later, when MERCOSUR was launched as a customs union, Argentina and Brazil agreed to postpone ...

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Chapter Five: The Footwear Industry Dispute

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pp. 95-124

The devaluation of the Brazilian currency in January 1999 marked the beginning of a highly conflictive period in the Southern Cone. For the next year and a half, Argentina and Brazil were almost continuously involved in commercial disputes, triggered by recurrent unilateral restrictions on intraregional trade. The highest peak of tension between the...

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Chapter Six: Failure to Relaunch

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pp. 125-156

After more than a year of ongoing tension, Brazil and Argentina agreed in 2000 to “relaunch” MERCOSUR. Together with their two smaller partners, Uruguay and Paraguay, they pledged to work jointly in the resolution of sectoral disputes and in the completion of the customs union. Yet in the first quarter of 2001 commercial and diplomatic friction ...

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Chapter Seven: A Narrow Escape

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pp. 157-196

Despite seemingly improved prospects for regional cooperation, commercial tension between Argentina and Brazil resurfaced after 2003, in the aftermath of the Argentine crisis. During this period, however, MERCOSUR partners adopted a more diplomatic and cooperative approach in dealing with trade friction. Instead of automatically resorting ...

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Chapter Eight: Conclusions

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pp. 197-224

In previous chapters, I have argued that the erratic and unstable patterns of regional cooperation in the Southern Cone have reflected the tension and interaction between systemic power-related incentives and domestic political factors. MERCOSUR’s evolution and survival have been shaped in important ways by overlapping asymmetries of power within and...

Appendix A

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pp. 225-228

Appendix B

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pp. 229-232


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pp. 233-255

Works Cited

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pp. 256-275


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pp. 276-BC

E-ISBN-13: 9780268080747
E-ISBN-10: 0268080747
Print-ISBN-13: 9780268029852
Print-ISBN-10: 0268029857

Page Count: 296
Illustrations: 8 line drawings; 25 tables
Publication Year: 2013