The European Union: promoter of regional integration in Latin America?

Rhetoric and Reality
13 April 2009
Report
An examination of the contrast between the EU‘s professed aims for supporting regional integration in Latin America with the actual experiences of the different regions in LA with which the EU is seeking to sign Association Agreements.

The European Union (EU) presents itself as a supportive partner of Latin America (LA), rather than as a competitor. In recent years, the EU has been stressing that its primary interest in negotiating Association Agreements (AAs) with the countries of LA is to provide support to the integration of different regions in LA.

In this report, the authors contrast the EU‘s professed aims for supporting regional integration in Latin America with the actual experiences of the different regions in LA with which the EU is seeking to sign AAs: Central America (CA), the countries of the Andean Community of Nations (CAN) and the Common Market of the South (MERCOSUR).

The authors explore the following questions: What interests does the EU have in regional integration in LA? What kind of integration does the EU promote in LA? How is support for regional integration made compatible with the search for Association Agreements (AAs) that pursue a broad liberalisation of trade and investment? What impact did the AA negotiations have on the different regional integration processes? What are the potential effects of AAs on the proposals for alternative regional integration that are coming from social movements and some progressive governments in the region?

This report raises questions about the EU’s discourse on co-operative support for regional integration in LA. The report argues that in reality the EU’s interests lie in preparing the terrain to later negotiate with regional blocks (rather than individual countries), and thus gain access to larger goods and services markets. Furthermore, it develops the argument that the trade negotiations promoted by the EU in LA entail serious risks that may result in heightening divisions in existing regional processes, as we have seen in the case of CAN. Furthermore, the signing of Association Agreements will become a ball and chain that will frustrate peoples’ efforts and struggles to achieve a different kind of regional integration in LA.

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