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New concepts in integration.

A GROUP OF Latin American and North American experts met at the OAS in April for a two-day seminar to consider the various trade liberalization initiatives in the Hemisphere, with special emphasis on the Enterprise for the Americas Initiative (EAI).

Organized by a working group of the OAS Permanent Council, the workshop brought together representatives of various regional organizations as well as academics and international trade specialists, such as Gert Rosenthal, Executive Secretary of the U.N. Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC); Alejandro Jara, coordinator of trade policy of the Latin American Economic System (SELA); and Byron Blake, Director of the Economic and Industrial Affairs Division of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM).

According to Ambassador Richard Bernal, OAS Permanent Representative of Jamaica, who chaired the seminar, "these trade accords and liberalization have been driven and put in place by political decisions. It is at that point that the OAS has a role to play in this area. The OAS objectives of peace and democracy are intimately related to the struggle against poverty and to economic development."

During the seminar, participants analyzed the process of subregional integration that has been developing in the Hemisphere, referring to MERCOSUR in South America, PACTO ANDINO in the Andean region, NAFTA in North America, CARICOM in the Caribbean and SIECA in Central America, as well as the future integration of these subregional arrangements.

Blake recalled that "the movement toward a single market coupled with the more open policy approach and increased economic, social and political contact with key countries in Central and South America should provide a firm basis for greater trade liberalization." He noted that "CARICOM's disposition to develop deeper economic arrangements with countries in the Hemisphere is demonstrated in the negotiation of a five-year Trade and Investment Agreement with the government of Venezuela." This agreement took effect in January of 1993, and negotiations of a similar nature have been opened with Colombia.

Rosenthal made the observation that the process of integration today is quite distinct from its early stages in the 1970s. Integration was first thought of as a "tool of collective defense against outside adversities." For Rosenthal, integration today is conceived as "an offensive strategy that serves to better engage Latin America in the international arena."

Although most experts share the feeling that the opening of trade can bring about a greater multilateralization of Latin American integration, they also caution that some important questions remain to be resolved. One of these is how to achieve the gradual convergence of macroeconomic policies of countries with different rates of development, where some have achieved a basic equilibrium and others have not.

A principal conclusion of this international seminar was that the OAS serves as the ideal forum for exchanging views and shaping future policies regarding trade liberalization in the Hemisphere.
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Title Annotation:Latin and North American experts analyze liberalization initiatives in the Hemisphere
Publication:Americas (English Edition)
Date:May 1, 1993
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