On 23 May, Presidents of the 12 countries of South America signed the Treaty under which formation of this regional group was formalised in the third south american summit held in Brasilia. The initiative for UNASUR was taken in 2004 with the Cuzco Declaration on 8 December 2004.
This is a fascinating and formidable alliance of all the 12 countries of south america, uniting the 5-member Mercosur with the 4-member Andean Community plus Chile, Guyana and Suriname. The secretariat of UNASUR will be located in Quito, its parliament in Cochabamba and its South Bank in Caracas. The presidents will meet once a year and the foreign ministers of the group will meet once in six months. The Union will have its own flag.
UNASUR aspires to become a Single Market, beginning with the elimination of tariffs for non-sensitive products by 2014 and sensitive products by 2019. UNASUR members have already allowed visa-free movement of their citizens between their countries. They have already taken up projects for the integration of infrastructure( roads, ports, communications etc) and energy. There is also a proposal to form a Defence Council. A common currency and passport are also part of the UNASUR dream whose role model is European Union.
Critics and those whose interests are affected by the regional grouping predict failure of this Union and highlight the political problems and conflicts between the member states and the immaturity of some of the political leaders. Some observers quote the failures of such attempts in the past and dismiss this as yet another doomed venture Latin Americans to integrate.
I believe that UNASUR is going to stay and flourish. The conditions of the market and the mindset for integration are ripe and favourable at this time than ever in the past. Nine out of the 12 countries have been part of the two main integrated groups namely Mercosur and Andean Community. Despite the imperfection of these two Groups, they have been successful in many ways. The governments, business and the people of these two groups have realised the values and advantages of integration. The trade between the UNASUR members have become a significant and growing portion of their external trade. Cross-border investment and collaborations of the business of these countries are already flourishing. More importantly, their dependence on their traditional markets namely USA and EU have come down and UNASUR countries have successfully diversified their exports and foreign trade. For example, Argentina´s trade with Mercosur is more than the combined total of their trade with EU and USA.
UNASUR has a total population of 382 million and GDP of 2,3 trillion dollars. It is an Agricultural Power and a supplier of conventional and biofuels to the world. All the countries of UNASUR are democracies with sustained economic growth and have become less vulnerable to external shocks. All these have given a new confidence and optimism and the leaders of these countries have realised the value of collective strength. It is not ideology or dreams which are behind the current integration process, as it was before the eighties. ....No more Magical Realism... It is sheer realism, pragmatism and the experience of the failures of the past which are the guiding forces of the current integration.
It is noteworthy that Brazil,the biggest power of the region is the one which is pushing seriously for UNASUR integration. And equally to be noted... Argentina, the second biggest power of the region is also betting on the same goal. Imagine a combined football team of Brazil and Argentina !
The world should take note of what President Lula said at the Brasilia summit on 23 may, "A united South America will rearrange the pieces on the board of power in the world."
Bravo..... UNASUR !!!