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The Washington Quarterly 24.2 (2001) 149-157

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A View from Brazil

Rubens A. Barbosa

The Quebec City Summit of the Americas in April 2001 will be held six years after the Miami summit--when 34 heads of state and government of the Western Hemisphere decided to establish a Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA) and agreed to conclude negotiations no later than 2005. Building on the success of the 1998 Santiago summit, the Quebec City meeting is an opportunity both to take stock of the progress made so far in the FTAA negotiations and to indicate future directions for the ongoing process. For Brazil in particular, the importance of the summit derives from the fact that it will be the last hemispheric presidential meeting before Brazil and the United States assume in 2003 the cochairmanship of the FTAA negotiations.

In this article, I will focus on three basic topics: (1) the evolution of the Brazilian strategy toward regional integration; (2) the role of Brazil in the FTAA negotiations; and (3) prospects for the Quebec City summit and for future negotiations to establish the FTAA, as viewed from the Brazilian perspective.

Beginning with Mercosul

Since signing the Treaty of Assuncion in 1991, establishing the Southern Cone Common Market (in Portuguese, Mercosul, or in Spanish, Mercosur), the expansion and consolidation of Mercosul has been the highest priority of Brazilian foreign policy and the main foundation of its strategy for regional integration. Mercosul--which comprises Brazil, Argentina, Paraguay, and Uruguay--is now the third-largest trading pact in the world and the most significant trade group in Latin America, noted both for its institutional [End Page 149] framework and for its rapid and continual growth. Trade among these countries increased more than 400 percent from 1990 through 1998, when it reached more than $20 billion. In 1999, trade among the four countries declined because of the economic difficulties they all faced. In 2000, however, Mercosul resumed its historic pattern of increasing flows of trade and investments and growing interdependence.

As Brazil has made clear from the beginning, integration among these four countries is not a goal in itself. After all, Brazil and its partners do not intend to prevent foreign competition. On the contrary, Mercosul is a mechanism to promote better integration into the international economy. The twin objectives of domestic strength and external integration are complementary. The more the Mercosul countries deepen their economic, political, social, and cultural integration, the more they will increase exposure to foreign competition. Integration is an instrument for more far-reaching goals: it not only creates favorable conditions for economic development and political stability in our countries but also allows us to seize the opportunities--and to reduce the risks--of an increasingly open and unstable international economy.

Because of these reasons, the international agenda of Mercosul is multifaceted and comprehensive. In 1996, Mercosul established free-trade agreements with the two "associated" countries, Chile and Bolivia. The bloc is also currently negotiating with the other Andean countries to establish a free-trade area. Additionally, Mercosul is negotiating free-trade agreements within the Western Hemisphere (the FTAA) and with the European Union (EU), Mexico, and South Africa. In the case of the FTAA, we have been stressing that the FTAA and Mercosul should maintain distinct and mutually supportive dynamics, as they have so far. For example, Mercosul has been strengthened by its participation, as a unit, in discussions on the FTAA. Similarly, progress toward the FTAA has been aided by Mercosul's contributions and proposals.

This outward approach and wide array of international negotiations indicate that Mercosul practices an "open regionalism." From the Brazilian perspective, open regionalism--combined with other cardinal principles of its economic diplomacy such as strengthening the multilateral trading system--manifests Brazil's fundamental interest in preserving balanced trade and financial ties with the various regions and countries of the world. Reflecting [End Page 150] this strategy, Brazil's main trading partners in 1999 were the EU (28 percent), the United States (22 percent), and South America (20 percent).

Expanding throughout the Continent

Along with the consolidation...


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