The Mercosur project
Like the inward-looking development strategies of the post-war period, the neoliberal turn in the Southern Cone was accompanied by a project of regional integration. The creation of the LAIA in the early 1980s did not unleash a significant or well-defined trend towards regional economic integration, or a coherent political project aiming to establish a regional bloc. Rather, its contribution has been limited to the provision of a framework for cooperation in the Latin American region. The integration initiatives that started in the Andean, Central American and Caribbean regions during the post-war period survived, but for much of the 1980s these too went through a period of stagnation or drift, largely as a result of the economic turmoil occasioned by the debt crisis and, in some cases, the impact of military intervention and other forms of conflict. The era of so-called ‘new regionalism’ in Latin America thus began genuinely to take shape only towards the turn of the decade, notably with the establishment in 1991 of the Mercosur and in 1994 of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), along with the relaunching of some of the existing blocs we have just mentioned. The early 1990s, indeed, were characterised by a proliferation of regional agreements across the world, which constituted key international economic strategies associated with neoliberal development projects.