terça-feira, 11 de novembro de 2008

The MERCOSUR after the return to democracy

1- Introduction: A social constructivist approach to understanding the formation of MERCOSUR
The MERCOSUR bloc, a Customs Union formed by Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay and Uruguay (with Venezuela currently in the process of becoming full member) represents, along with the European Union, one of the best models of regional integration in recent times. As such, it represents a major change in international politics in today’s world, for it implies a significant transfer of prerogatives from state level to regional transnational level. This represents a formidable theoretical challenge to some of the main paradigms in International Relations (Realism, Liberalism, Constructivism, Marxism, etc.).

The goal of this research paper is to analyze the impact of domestic factors, namely the return to democratic rule in Brazil, on the integration process that resulted in the formation of the MERCOSUR, using a constructivist approach. Although the bloc comprises Uruguay, Paraguay and Venezuela (still in process of full accession), this study will focus on the bilateral relations between its two main constituents: Brazil and Argentina. Together, these two countries represent the axis of the Southern Cone integration. In fact, they constitute the bulk of the economic and demographic power of the bloc and are, by far, the most important countries in terms of foreign policy in the region. As we shall see in details, creating MERCOSUL only became viable after a century old rivalry between Argentina and Brazil was overcome. This rivalry all but disappeared once the military rule ended in the mid 1980s and gave way to a strong and vital strategic partnership. It is clear in the official discourse of Brazilian policymakers that a perceived threat (Argentina) to the national security of the country became a perceived opportunity, even a strategic partner. At a specific historical point, a regional Lockean culture of anarchy gave way to a Kantian one. Patterns of rivalry were substituted by patterns of cooperation and the socially constructed idea related to Brazilian interests started to change in order to accommodate these new perceptions. Argentina was no longer perceived as a threat, as it had been at the time when both countries declared their independence. Instead, Brazilians began thinking of their neighbors as their primary strategic allies.

This change from competition to cooperation is indeed the greatest and most significant alteration in foreign policy to take place within the regional context of South America. Its significance for South America is far reaching and can be compared to the overcoming of post war Franco-German rivalry that led to the complete transformation of European regional foreign policy. In fact, the Brazilian – Argentine axis is the pillar on which southern cone integration rests.

What is remarkable about this change from rivalry to strategic partnership is the fact that it took place in a context of unchanged regional, indeed international, structure. It therefore poses a major challenge to a realist approach of understanding IR and, conversely, a major opportunity for constructivism to make a case for the accuracy of its paradigms. Since there was no major change in the distribution of capabilities across the region, the causes of the integration are to be found elsewhere.

We argue that the end of authoritarian rule and the ensuing redemocratization in Brazil were the driving forces behind the change in perceptions (or ‘shared knowledge’, according to Wendt) that forged the path to the founding of the Union (MERCOSUR). The aim of this paper, therefore, is to analyze the integration process in the South Cone using a constructivist approach to IR. Our working hypothesis is that the return to democratic rule in Brazil (1985) is the main factor behind the radical change in the way by which Brazilian policymakers perceived their own national interest vìs-a-vìs their southern neighbors. This assumption is consistent with the views of other scholars who have conducted similar research (Remmer: 1985, 1998; Cason: 2000; Pion-Berlin: 2000).

One scholar, Karen Remmer, notes, “A rapidly growing body of research suggests that democracy enhances prospects for the peaceful settlement of political disputes, both internationally (Dixon, 1993, 1994; Rousseau, Gelpi, Reiter and Huth, 1996) and domestically (Henderson, 1991; Mitchell and McCormick, 1991)” (Remer 1998: 25).

Remmer also states, “Participants in the recent economic integration process as well as outside observers have emphasized the important role played by democratization in the creation of MERCOSUR, arguing that the convergent perspectives of new democratic leaders made it possible to overcome many important conjunctural, structural and historical obstacles to cooperation, including declining intra-regional trade, the long standing military rivalry between Argentina and Brazil, and major imbalances among the economies of the region” (Remmer 1998: 33).

Jeffrey Cason supports the argument by asserting “the integration process began largely from the top down, led by the state in an effort to consolidate democracy in two countries emerging from authoritarian political regimes in the mid-1980s.” (Cason 2000: 24). Furthermore, Remmer presents convincing “evidence that democracy (…) enhances the likelihood of interstate cooperation” (Remmer 1998: 45).

Our hypothesis is supported by what Remmer calls “the finding that democratization has a significant impact upon intestate cooperation” (Remmer 1998: 45). It is important to note that something similar happened in Argentina after its defeat in the Malvinas (Falkland) War and the end of military rule there (1985).

Due to the scope of this paper, it will not be possible to do an in-depth analysis of what the end of military rule implied for Argentina’s perceptions of its national interests. We assume, however, that the establishment of democratic rule in Argentina did bring about a differently constructed perception of reality.

2- Main assumptions of social constructivism
According to Alexander Wendt, “amity or enmity is a function of shared understandings” (Kaufmann 1998: 731). This means that the structure of the international system is not shaped by the distribution of material capabilities alone, as realists argue. For constructivists, structures are made of “social relationships”. According to Wendt, therefore, “(s)ocial structures have three elements: shared knowledge, material resources and practices” (ibid: 730). The assumption that reality is socially constructed is thus a central paradigm of constructivism. In this regard, constructivism is essentially idealistic and holistic, for it considers the social construction of reality as a dialectic process whereby ideas shape, and are shaped by, the world. Wendt once famously remarked, “idealist and holist comments led (him) to the view that ‘anarchy is what states make of it’” (Wendt 1998: 6). Moreover, Wendt asserts that the international structure is a “social rather than material phenomenon” (ibid: 20).

In Wendt’s view, there is not one single, static culture of anarchy, but three different ones. In other words, anarchy can evolve from a culture of war of all against all to the rule of law, formed by a cooperative community where individuals prefer cooperation to fighting against each other. Therefore, the “logic of anarchy can vary” (ibid: 43) and states can “learn to cooperate while their egoistic identities remain constant” (ibid: 37). Changes in processes of interaction may hence lead to a change from one culture of anarchy to another. If, as Wendt implies, anarchy can mature, then cooperation should not only be attainable, but desirable as well. This is precisely what the integration process in the South Cone suggests, as we shall see further ahead.

3- The social construction of reality
The concept of social construction of reality is central to constructivism, in that it shapes the structure of the international system. States can, and often do, change their national interests. Old rivalries can, and often do, evolve into strategic partnerships. Whether two states engage in war or live in peace is a matter of which culture of anarchy best fulfills the momentary strategic needs of a state in a given epoch. In other words, Wendt’s theory implies that security dilemmas can evolve into security communities, as was the case in the Southern Cone.

Wendt categorically asserts that “history matters” (Kaufman: 733). Historical contexts may lead states to adopt one strategy or another. Therefore, rivalry and competition have to be understood from an historical perspective. If this is true, a social observer should expect changes in historical contexts to cause variations in the prevailing assessments of which culture of anarchy prevails upon others. Our research confirms that the integration patterns of the MERCOSUR countries and the historical context in which they happened do indeed corroborate this assumption.

4- Brazilian Regional Foreign policy
Since our objective is to discuss the foreign policies of Brazil and Argentina, the two largest and most populous countries of the MERCOSUR bloc, we shall analyze Brazilian foreign policy in the 20th century focusing only on the regional context. Due to the fact that Brazil is such a large country, with an enormous population and a varied economic insertion in the world economy, its foreign policy certainly goes far beyond its regional engagements. However, it would be neither possible nor desirable to go through Brazilian foreign policy at any great lengths in the scope of this essay. We will instead focus more specifically on the state of Brazil’s bilateral relations with Argentina before and after redemocratization and attempt to discover whether there was a major shift in perceptions after this decisive moment in Brazilian history, as social constructivism would suggest.

It is important to note that, from the onset, bilateral relations between Brazil and Argentina were of mutual suspicion, if not of overt competition. In fact, as some analysts have pointed out, after they declared independence, Brazil and Argentina inherited the century-long dispute between Portugal and Spain for the control of the estuary of the Prata River, a main headway to the hinterland of this agriculturally rich region in South America. Control of the Prata Basin had always been considered, in fact, of strategic importance in South America. This inherited rivalry, which caused the two countries to war against each other twice during the beginning of the 19th century, persevered through the entire process of establishing themselves as nation states in South America. This inheritance helped form the perceived rivalry between the two nations, who were destined to later become the leading forces behind the integration of the South Cone and the creation of a common market.

For the purpose of our analysis, Brazilian Foreign policy in the twentieth century up until redemocratization can be divided into 5 periods. The first period begins with the founding of the Republic in 1889, and ends with the Revolution of 1930, and it has been termed as a period of alignment with the USA, or the “diplomacy of agro-export”. The second period stretches from 1930 to 1945 and has been termed the “nationalistic bargaining” period. The third period goes from 1950 to the military coup in 1964, and the fifth extends from 1964 to the end of the military regime in 1985, and the consequent redemocratization of the country.

There are, of course, several nuances during some of these parts of Brazilian history, such as the period subsequent to WW II (1945-1950), during the government of Eurico Gaspar Dutra, where Brazil, following its participation in the war alongside the Allies, aligned itself to the western bloc almost unconditionally in the context of the cold war. There is also another sub-period between 1964 and 1967 (during the government of Marshal Castello Branco) where the country, already under military rule, aligned itself with the USA in the context of the cold war and as a reflex to the Cuban Revolution in South America. Because of the so-called National Security Doctrine during that period, which identified an internal front in the war against communism, and influenced by the National War College, Brazil went along with the USA in every major issue of foreign policy. That is why some analysts have characterized this period as a detour in the bigger picture of Brazilian foreign policy. Since these two periods are not significant in terms of influencing latter outcomes, especially the bilateral relations with Argentina, we shall leave them out of our study.

During the “diplomacy of agro-export”, a period which goes from the founding of the Brazilian republic to the modernizing revolution of 1930, Brazil’s foreign policy adopted Pan-Americanism as its main motto, seeking closer ties to the other republics of the continent and distancing itself from the British influence that had underpinned foreign policy during the monarchy. The birth of the republic brought about a major shift in Brazilian foreign policy that influenced bilateral relations with Argentina, albeit not an influence capable enough of altering the old pattern of perceived mistrust. By the time the revolution of 1930 occurred in Brazil, the old pattern of rivalry between Argentina and Brazil was well established. This did not change in the subsequent period.

The armed movement that brought an end to the first republic in Brazil changed the identity of the nation almost entirely. In this regard, it substantially changed the way Brazilians “socially constructed their realities” and had major implications, as a constructivist would expect, in terms of Brazilian foreign policy. The major feature of this period was the industrialization of a hitherto rural society and the urbanization process that accompanied it. Longing for industries, Brazil began directing its foreign policy toward attaining development. According to many scholars (Cervo, Vizentini, Moura), development became the hallmark of Brazilian external policy from that point on. In a polarized world, characterized by the establishment of the alliances that would later fight each other in World War II, Brazil started bargaining its alignment with the greater powers without considerably altering its perception regarding Argentina. Although there were some attempts at cooperation, the Argentine alignment with the Axis and its refusal to join the Allies in the war against Nazi Germany constituted major obstacles to any sustained pattern of cooperation. In fact, Brazil took advantage of its position to try to gain ground in terms of armaments and modernizing its armed forces, always with a mistrustful eye on its southern neighbor.

In 1945, after WW II, the regime that had ruled Brazil from 1930 to 1945 ended. A period of democratic rule followed (1946 – 1964) in which some attempts were made at attaining a deeper cooperation pattern with Argentina. Redemocratization in Brazil, in this earlier context, considerably enhanced cooperation between both countries, which, nevertheless, remained mistrustful of each other. One important moment during this period was when Brazilian President Juscelino Kubitschek launched the Pan-American Operation in 1958, in an attempt to renew hemispherical cooperation. Although the Pan-American Operation was not completely successful, it did bring about subsequent important changes in patterns of cooperation in the continent, of which the two most eloquent examples are the Inter-American Bank for Development and the establishment of the first round of trade liberalizing talks, the ALALC or Latin American Association For Free Trade. ALALC existed from 1960 to 1980 and, in due course, gave way to ALADI, the Latin American Development Association, which has promoted the largest number of trade liberalizing agreements in the region so far.

ALALC, and later ALADI, could rightly be considered as the main propeller of economic cooperation in Latin America. The fact that most pundits in Brazil agree that ALALC was set up as a result of the Pan-American Operation, launched in a democratic environment, is another important indicator of the link between democracy and patterns of cooperation.

This period of democratic rule also gave origin to another important cooperative endeavor: in 1961, Argentina and Brazil signed the Uruguayana Accords, which considered both countries the nucleus of a larger South American Common Market. The predictions of the Uruguayana Accords did not materialize during the subsequent years of military rule in both countries. They did, however, come to pass after the return to democracy in the mid 1980s.

The Pan-American Operation and the Uruguayana Accords are considered by most IR scholars in Brazil as the cornerstones of the process that later brought about the creation of MERCOSUR. The fact that they took place during the democratic interval between 1945 and 1964 is no coincidence. It is evident in the Brazilian diplomatic discourse of the time that there was a pattern of enhanced interest in cooperation vìs-a-vìs Argentina. During this period, the speeches Brazilian policymakers made expounding their national interests clearly helped enable the efforts to overcome, albeit not fully, the security dilemma at the time. The Pan-American Operation and the Uruguayana Accords represent, therefore, another supporting argument in favor of the constructivist thesis of how cultures of anarchy evolve.

After the Cuban revolution in 1959, and the Cuban missile crisis in 1962, North American pressure on its South American neighbors began to mount. The US demanded an unconditional hemispherical alignment in the war against communism and began fostering the proliferation of National Security Doctrines in the countries of the region. According to this doctrine, the war against communism had an internal front. Chasing out communist subversives became an obsession in regimes influenced by the Doctrine of National Security in South America.

Eradicating the communist evil became the fundamental aspect of the region’s domestic, as well as foreign, policies. In a complex process, these developments eventually led to the establishment of military rule in Brazil, which lasted from 1964 to 1984, and to the abandonment of cooperation patterns that had born fruit in the Uruguayana accords.

Regional integration was initially perceived as subversive talk and military rulers in the region took advantage of nationalistic chauvinism to maintain their hold on power. Old antagonisms, such as the one between Argentina and Brazil, resurfaced, driven obviously by domestic factors. Clearly, the rise of military dictatorships constituted an obstacle to further integration in the region. Seeking to find popular support for their totalitarian regimes, military rulers manipulated national interests and revived old animosities. As Wendt would say, Realpoltik eventually became a self-fulfilling prophecy. Nationalism was the driving force behind the manner in which the nations of the region perceived their national interests.

To be sure, there were attempts at cooperation, such as the signing of the Prata Basin Treaty in 1968, which was meant to promote sub-regional cooperation between its signatories (Argentina, Brazil, Bolivia, Paraguay and Uruguay). Bilateral Argentine-Brazilian relations remained scarce, nonetheless, and disputes between Brazil and Argentina arose later on, when Brazil signed a Treaty with Paraguay to promote the building of Itaipú, the world’s largest dam at the time, in the border region between both countries. In terms of strategic options, Brazil was still suspicious of Argentina in the 1970s, despite sporadic efforts at cooperation. Even though both governments cooperated in the fight against subversive elements, this suspicion remained true until the end of military rule in Brazil. In the mid 1970s, despite sporadic cooperation, one could say there was a nuclear arms race going on in the region, with both Brazil and Argentina pursuing their nuclear programs.

After the return to democracy, the newly civilian-implemented Brazilian foreign policy clearly tried to distinguish itself from its military predecessors. Inasmuch as the military rulers had taken advantage of the nationalistic confrontational discourse towards Argentina, the new civilian rulers tried to foster new patterns of cooperation towards its southern neighbor.

5- A brief history of the MERCOSUR
In order to understand the impact of the end of authoritarian rule in the Southern Cone’s regional foreign policy, we shall delineate the main moments of the constitution of the MERCOSUR. With the establishment of civilian rule in Argentina (1984) and Brazil (1985), prospects for cooperation between both countries begun to increase. In November of 1985, during the civilian presidencies of José Sarney (Brazil) and Raúl Alfonsín (Argentina), the Declaration of Iguazú was signed, and a program of enhanced cooperation in political and economic terms agreed upon (Argentine Brazilian Economic Integration Program). According to Cason, “The ABEIP marked a break with previous integration efforts. Whereas Argentina and Brazil had traditionally been economic and military rivals in South America, the ABEIP agreements signaled a new push toward cooperation and an attempt to downplay past differences” (Cason 2000: 25). Moreover, Cason notes that “(t)he ABEIP also evolved as both countries were emerging from periods of military rule, and both saw the agreements as a way to strengthen their fledgling democracies” (ibid: 26).

This pattern of renewed strategic cooperation led to the signing of the Brazil-Argentina Cooperation and Integration Treaty in 1989. This treaty would subsequently represent the basis of MERCOSUR’s constitutive treaty, the Asunción Treaty of 1991, which created the Mercado Comum Do Sul or Southern Common Market - MERCOSUR, strategically linking together Brazil, Argentina, Paraguay and Uruguay. According to Pion-Berlin, “(t)he treaty, along with a subsequent series of protocols, committed the members to pursue a steady path of economic openness and coordination, moving from simple trade liberalization via tariff reduction to the creation of a common external tariff and, eventually, to the easing of restrictions on service, capital and labor flows”(Pion-Berlin 2000: 44).

In 1995, after several years of negotiation and the signing of the Ouro Preto Protocol, the Customs Union was finally established between Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay and Uruguay. An external tariff on goods was created for all signatory members and the free movement of factors of production agreed upon. A major strategic alliance between Brazil and Argentina was forged with a view to establishing, first, a Common Market, and secondly, a full-blown Union, that would substitute the old rivalry that had endured since the very onset of the two nations.

An important step in the process linking economic integration and maintaining democratic forms of government took place in 1998 when the Ushuaia Protocol was signed. According to its directives observing democratic rule became an integral part of the unions’ structure, and signatory countries agreed to abide by this rule or face expulsion from the group. The core meaning of the Ushuaia Protocol for democracy in the region would later be tested in a serious governance crisis in Paraguay. After a series of events that endangered the country’s political stability, the other members of the MERCOSUR union decided to put diplomatic pressure on Paraguay by threatening to implement sanctions as indicated in the Ushuaia Protocol, including expulsion of the trade bloc, if necessary. Eventually, democracy was restored in Paraguay and has been preserved ever since. Moreover, it is worth noting that since the establishment of MERCOSUR the southern cone has experienced one of its longest periods of democratic stability, with no single member-country returning to military rule.

6- From historical competition to strategic partnership: from enmity to amity
Nowadays, the pattern of strategic cooperation is gathering momentum in specific areas such as security, nuclear research, economics, environment, politics, and human rights. MERCOSUR has recently inaugurated its parliament with democratically elected representatives of all member countries. The old days of competition between Argentina and Brazil are long gone. Once military rule ended, Argentina and Brazil opted for a Kantian culture of permanent and endurable cooperation, replacing a Lockean culture of rivalry that competed for hegemony in the sub-regional arena. Mr. Fernando Henrique Cardoso, Brazilian President from 1995 to 2002, once famously remarked, “whereas other trade agreements are for us an option, MERCOSUR is our destiny”. Policymakers in Brazil nowadays see Argentina as the most important strategic partner. A century-old rivalry for hegemony over the region has given place to a perception of strategic partnership that constitutes the main propeller of integration in the South Cone. The Argentine-Brazilian axis represents, in fact, the backbone of the Southern Cone Union.

One could argue that empirical evidence gathered from the recent developments in regional foreign policy in South America confirms constructivist claims that reality is socially constructed. In fact, the context of anarchy in the region did evolve from a Lockean to a Kantian perspective. Democracy did indeed bring about a significant change in the perceptions of the Brazilian national interest and a security dilemma did transform itself into a security community. The decisive moment at which this meaningful transformation in perceptions occurred was, without doubt, the redemocratization of Brazil in the mid 1980s. In opposition to the chauvinist nationalistic discourse that had shaped much of the preceding period, civilian leaders adopted a clearly cooperative tone towards Argentina and other South American countries. Every endeavor was made by all organs of the Brazilian government to promote cooperation.

Brazil opened important doors to Argentina in an effort to defuse remaining tension. Maybe the most significant of these was the cooperation in nuclear research and the establishment of the Argentine-Brazilian Agency of Accountability and Control of Nuclear Materials, following the signing of the Guadalajara Accords in 1991. Brazil and Argentina are now cooperating in national arms industries, instead of building against each other. The Kantian culture that prevails nowadays in the Southern Cone is unlikely to disappear. In the face of what we have seen, it is evident that redemocratization did indeed significantly alter the perception of the Brazilian National interest vìs-a-vìs Argentina. This new socially constructed perception was the catalyst for a self-fulfilling movement towards cooperation in the region.

By opting clearly and unambiguously for a Kantian culture of anarchy, the peoples of Brazil and Argentina did transform their regional realities. Not only did they put an end to military rule, but they also adopted a path in which cooperation replaced competition in a manner that certainly confirms a number of main constructivist assumptions. It is possible to conclude that a careful and detailed factual analysis of Brazilian foreign policy discourse sustains the working hypothesis presented in this research paper. No one in charge of formulating policies of national interest in Brazil these days, be it scholars, intellectuals, members of the Foreign Service or other officials, contests the strategic importance of cooperation with Argentina. A consensus that stretches across the lines of liberals and conservatives was formed as to the importance of fostering and nurturing a culture of peace and cooperation in the South Cone.

Moreover, Argentine and Brazilian national identities are giving way, slowly but steadily, to a regional South American identity. Brazilians are very proud these days to showcase their newly released MERCOSUR passports, and recent events show that, despite occasional difficulties, patterns of cooperation are gathering enormous momentum in the region, similar to what happened in Europe as well. Several joint research programs in regional studies and international relations help give feedback in this process. Brazilian and Argentine scholars have never worked so closely together to try to understand their differences and nurture their similar identities as they do today. A new generation of policymakers (diplomats, officials, scholars) and institutions is forming across borders that will enhance patters of sustained cooperation. Once these inexorable processes gather speed, it becomes only a matter of time until the structures of the system acquire totally new characteristics.

In summary, Brazil and Argentina have opted to put an end to old rivalries. Recently, the presidents of the region established a larger Union of the Nations of the South. To be sure, obstacles lie ahead, as they did in Europe. However, much to the contentment of Kant, Brazilians and Argentines are more determined than ever to cement a perpetual bond of cooperative patterns in the region. To date, evidence clearly indicates that the constructivist approach can present the integration process in South America as a showcase for its paradigms.

7- Bibliography
1. Barnett, M. (2004), “Social Constructivism”, in Baylis, J. and Smith, S. The Globalization of World Politics (Oxford: Oxford University Press).
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3. Kaufman, D. J., Parker, J.M., Howel, P.V., Doty, G.R. (1998), Understanding International Relations, The Value of Alternative Lenses (USA: Custom Publishing).
4. Pion-Berlin, D. (2000)., “Will Soldiers Follow? Economic Integration and Regional Security in the Southern Cone”, Journal of Interamerican Studies and World Affairs, Vol. 42, No. 1.
5. Remmer, Karen L. (1998), “Does Democracy Promote Interstate Cooperation? Lessons from the MERCOSUR Region”, International Studies Quarterly, Vol. 42, No. 1.
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8. Wendt, A. (1998), A Social Theory of International Politics, (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press).

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