Photo of the Mercosur Summit held in Brasilia in December 2012. PHOTO EFE
Regional Integration Processes
Regional integration processes in Latin America are enjoying a renewed political boost with progress being made on different fronts and at different speeds. There are many regional and sub-regional integration and dialogue organisations. The most recent integration process is the Pacific Alliance. Noteworthy regional bodies include
MERCOSUR [Southern Common Market], CAN [Andean Community of Nations], CARICOM [Caribbean Community], UNASUR [Union of South American Nations], SICA [Central American Integration System], ALBA [Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of our America], the Pacific Alliance and CELAC [Community of Latin American and Caribbean States].

The Southern Common Market (Spanish acronym: MERCOSUR) was set up on 26 March 1991 by the Treaty of Asunción. It is comprised of Argentina, Brazil, Uruguay, Paraguay and Venezuela, a country incorporated as a full member in its own right in 2012. At the Brasilia Summit in December 2012, Bolivia signed the Protocol of Accession. MERCOSUR brings together 75% of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of South America. The European Union (EU) seeks to negotiate an Association Agreement with MERCOSUR which, in addition to stepping up cooperation and political dialogue between the two blocs, includes a Free Trade Treaty.

The Andean Community of Nations (Spanish acronym: CAN) is comprised of Bolivia, Colombia, Ecuador and Peru. This is the oldest integration process in the region (set up in 1969). The CAN’s main achievement has been the creation of a Free Trade Zone that was completed in January 2006. In 2004, a Free Trade Agreement was signed between CAN and MERCOSUR (Economic Complementation Agreement). Colombia, Ecuador and Peru are also associate members of MERCOSUR. Furthermore, Peru and Colombia have signed a Free Trade Agreement (Multiparty Agreement) – currently being provisionally applied – with the EU; this Multiparty Agreement is open to the other members of the CAN.

In 2013, a process to reform the CAN was launched, based on the concentration of activities around certain priorities (trade integration, SMEs, electricity interconnections, Andean citizenship) and institutional simplification. The Pro-Tempore Presidency is currently held by Colombia. Spain has held the status of observer since August 2011.

The CARICOM (Caribbean Community) is made up of 15 countries, almost all of them former British colonies, and hence English-speaking communities. 11 of them are island States: Antigua, Bahamas, Barbados, Belize, Dominica, Granada, Guyana, Jamaica, Montserrat (British colony), Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Vicente and the Grenadines, Saint Lucia, Surinam (former Dutch Guyana), Trinidad and Tobago and Haiti, although the latter pulled out temporarily between 2004 and 2006. 12 of the CARICOM nations, plus the Dominican Republic, signed the Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) with the EU in 2008. The Bahamas currently holds the Pro-Tempore Presidency of the CARICOM.

The Union of South American Nations (Spanish acronym: UNASUR) was set up at the Isla Margarita Summit (Venezuela) on 17 April 2007, as a legacy of the Community of South American Nations (Spanish acronym: CSN). It is made up of 12 South American countries: Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, Guyana, Peru, Surinam, Uruguay, Venezuela and Paraguay. UNASUR was set up as an organisation for political dialogue, has a population of 392 million inhabitants and a surface area of 17 million km2. Uruguay has held the Pro-Tempore Presidency since December 2014. The Colombian national, Ernesto Samper, is its Secretary-General.

The Central American System Integration (Spanish acronym: SICA) was set up on 13 December 1991 through the Protocol of Tegucigalpa at the Summit of Central American Presidents, as an endeavour by nations to boost integration in the region. Its full members are Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Nicaragua, Panama, Honduras, Belize and, since 2013, the Dominican Republic. Honduras’ membership was suspended between June 2009 and July 2010, as a result of the ousting from power of its President, Manuel Zelaya. Honduras currently holds the Pro-Tempore Presidency.
 
The Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of our America (Spanish acronym: ALBA) is an initiative promoted by Venezuela to integrate countries in Latin America and the Caribbean based on solidarity and on the complementary nature of national economies. It was proposed by the President of Venezuela, Hugo Chávez, as an alternative to the Free Trade Area for the Americas (Spanish acronym: ALCA), backed at that time by the United States. It was set up in 2004 through an agreement signed in Havana by Venezuela and Cuba. In the following years, this group was joined by Bolivia, Nicaragua, Honduras, Dominica, Ecuador, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Antigua and Barbuda, Saint Lucia, Surinam and Saint Kitts and Nevis. In January 2010, Honduras pulled out of the bloc and in October 2011, Syria became an “allied member”. Haiti holds the status of “special guest”.
 
The Pacific Alliance (Spanish acronym: AdP), which is defined as a “profound integration” body, is one of the integration processes that arouses the greatest interest and attraction at this time. Although it is an economic and trade commitment, political impetus is also essential for its success. Set up in 2011, and formally constituted in June 2012, with the signing of the Framework Agreement for the Pacific Alliance, it is comprised of Mexico, Colombia, Peru and Chile. The additional Protocol to the Framework Agreement was signed by the Heads of State on 10 February 2014 at the Cartagena de Indias Summit. As an economic bloc, the AdP brings together 214 million people and represents 37% of the total GDP of Latin America and the Caribbean. Costa Rica and Panama are candidates to join the Alliance. At present, there are 32 Observer States of the Pacific Alliance. Spain was the first European country to achieve this status on 17 November 2012. By taking on this status, Spain reaffirms its ties to these four countries and to an organisation that is taking a firm step forward from among the myriad of American organisations. Evidence of this interest is the participation of President of the Government Rajoy at the 7th Summit. The Pro-Tempore Presidency is currently held by Peru until July 2016.
 
The Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (Spanish acronym: CELAC) is the representative mechanism for political dialogue, cooperation and integration of the Latin American and Caribbean States that is a standing forum for bringing together the 33 countries of Latin America and the Caribbean based on the historical acquis of the so-called Rio Group. CELAC was set up in December 2011 at the Latin American and Caribbean Summit held in Caracas. At the express wish of its members, it lacks administrative bodies, decisions are adopted by consensus and the supreme body is the Summit of Heads of State and Government that meets on an annual basis in the country that exercises the Pro-Tempore Presidency, currently the Dominican Republic.

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