What are the chances of success of the Latin regional integration project?

Dr.. sudfat muhamad mahmud

The current period is witnessing a revival in the hopes of many citizens of Latin American countries in the possibility of qualitative progress in the system of regional integration in the region. These hopes are driven by the recent electoral successes of a large number of politicians affiliated with the left and center-left currents, the most recent of which was Gustavo Petro’s assumption of the presidency of Colombia on August 7, 2022, to be the first leftist to assume the presidency of the country in modern history. These optimistic expectations are reinforced by some regional leaders’ recent call for unity and joint cooperation, and their proposals for regional integration initiatives, including the formation of a lithium consortium or grouping in an attempt to exchange experiences and knowledge about geological, regulatory and scientific aspects and best practices to develop this mineral necessary for energy transitions, and the manufacture of electric car batteries. The union will consist mostly of Mexico plus Argentina, Chile and Bolivia, which are the countries of the so-called “lithium triangle”, which contains about 65% of the world’s lithium reserves. This is in addition to the proposal of “Lula da Silva”, the presidential candidate in the Brazilian elections, to launch a single Latin currency; To reduce dependence on the US dollar. The proposal was welcomed by some of the region’s leaders. Although this is still a far-fetched idea, it illustrates the current level of enthusiasm among the new Latin American leaders. In addition, some presidents agreed on the importance of reviving and revitalizing the role of the existing regional groupings, including the Andean and Celak. Although this is still a far-fetched idea, it illustrates the current level of enthusiasm among the new Latin American leaders. In addition, some presidents agreed on the importance of reviving and revitalizing the role of the existing regional groupings, including the Andean and Celak. Although this is still a far-fetched idea, it illustrates the current level of enthusiasm among the new Latin American leaders. In addition, some presidents agreed on the importance of reviving and revitalizing the role of the existing regional groupings, including the Andean and Celak.

potential opportunities

There are several factors that could push the leaders of Latin American countries to take concrete steps to promote regional integration; This is as follows:

1- Political and ideological affinity between leaders: It is often said that the success of regional integration in Latin America depends on the ideological consensus between governments. In recent years, political and ideological differences, with countries in the region divided between left-wing and right-wing governments, have been a fundamental obstacle to Latin regional integration; So if Lula da Silva wins the presidency in the October elections, Brazil will join what is known as the “second pink tide”, for the rise of the left in the region, and will be the heads of the five most powerful countries in Latin America (Brazil, Mexico, Argentina, Colombia and Chile), in general, Ideologically aligned and open, in principle, to establishing constructive bilateral relations and deepening the level of joint cooperation.

– The prospects of Lula da Silva winning the Brazilian presidency: In recent years, Latin America has lacked presidents capable of assuming a regional leadership role or the political clout necessary to promote a common vision for the future. However, the chances of success of the Latin regional integration project could increase if Lula da Silva, the front-runner in the Brazilian presidential elections, wins.

Da Silva’s victory may lead to Brazil, the largest country in the region, resuming its regional leadership project, especially since during his presidency (2002-2010), he worked to strengthen his country’s regional leadership, and contributed to the inauguration of many integrative initiatives, such as the establishment of the Union of American Nations Southern. On the other hand, if current President Jair Bolsonaro wins a second term, Brazil will continue its current path of political isolation in the region, with limited attention to strengthening relations with regional leaders whom he does not consider ideologically aligned with him.

3- Existence of a regional public opinion that supports integration: There is a regional public opinion that strongly supports regional integration plans, which may represent an encouraging factor for regional leaders to move forward in implementing joint cooperation and coordination projects. According to a Latinobarometro survey published in March 2022, 71% of citizens of the 18 Latin American countries surveyed supported regional integration; This indicates that the peoples of the region realize the importance of addressing common challenges ranging from transnational crime to migration and deforestation, by adopting mechanisms of integration and joint cooperation. The survey showed that young people between the ages of 16 and 25 are more in favor of regional integration (75%), but with greater support for integration among men (76%) than women (67%).

structural impediments

In contrast to the opportunities that can enhance the prospects for the success of the Latin regional integration project, there are several obstacles that may prevent substantial progress in the foreseeable future, including:

– The adverse effect of relations with external parties: One of the factors that hinder effective integration in Latin America is that the countries of the region are concerned with giving priority to strengthening relations with economic powers from outside the region, specifically China and the United States, at the expense of encouraging regional trade. In fact, intraregional trade in Latin America and the Caribbean, according to data from the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) barely exceeds 14% of the total foreign trade of the countries of the region, which is much lower than Asia (41%) and the European Union (% 59). This trend is confirmed by Uruguay’s announcement last July that it has completed a joint feasibility study with China on a bilateral free trade agreement, and that the two countries are determined to start negotiations.

2- Weak institutional frameworks for joint cooperation: The institutional weakness of the existing regional organizations is one of the most important obstacles impeding the Latin integration process, in addition to the weak compliance, which caused the limited achievements of regional organizations during the past years, in light of the multiplicity and diversity of these organizations. Part of the problem of weak economic integration in the region is the lack of coordination in trade facilitation, harmonization of rules of origin, and perhaps most importantly, the lack of a common vision of a physical infrastructure that binds the countries of the region together.

3- Exacerbation of internal crises: While the internal crises and the regional and international challenges facing Latin American countries impose a strong incentive to deepen the foundations of coordination and joint cooperation, sometimes internal crises fuel the increasing isolationism and “anti-globalization”, especially in Brazil and Mexico. Indeed, most Latino leaders face a complex set of internal problems, with slowing economic growth and increasing social inequality; Therefore, it is likely that the new left-wing leaders will turn inward, and will devote more time to addressing domestic crises, perhaps at the expense of regional integration efforts.

Among the foregoing, it can be said that the current wave of left-wing rise to power in Latin America offers a greater opportunity for joint dialogue, but that there remains limited prospects for meaningful progress in the short term; Ideological consensus among Latin leaders, although a necessary condition, is not sufficient for stronger regional integration, given the many structural obstacles. In most cases, the new alliances between the countries of the region will not be based only on ideological ties, but also on the basis of cooperation between their peoples, in light of the trend towards strengthening cooperation in specific economic areas and sectors, such as unifying the electric grid in the region, creating mechanisms for sharing natural resources and adopting measures regional poverty. In addition to deepening the dialogue on some priority security issues, such as combating organized crime and addressing human and drug trafficking, as well as migration.

Interregional for Strategic Analytics

SAKHRI Mohamed
SAKHRI Mohamed

I hold a bachelor's degree in political science and international relations as well as a Master's degree in international security studies, alongside a passion for web development. During my studies, I gained a strong understanding of key political concepts, theories in international relations, security and strategic studies, as well as the tools and research methods used in these fields.

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