Regional integration with Latin America and the Caribbean is Argentina’s main international insertion focus and MERCOSUR is the pillar of Argentina’s foreign policy. This integration mechanism, created by Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay and Uruguay, and into which Venezuela was incorporated in 2012, celebrated its twentieth anniversary on 26 March 2011. MERCOSUR also has six associate countries: Chile, Colombia, Ecuador Guyana, Peru and Suriname, while Bolivia’s accession process to become a full member of the bloc is close to completion. In a little over two decades, integration has contributed to the strengthening of the democratic and peaceful spirit of the region, while also enabling the increase and diversification of trade, the development of its productive structures and greater international insertion of our countries.

MERCOSUR’s early years were marked by the creation of the customs union and the pre-eminence of the trade dimension. As a result of the Buenos Aires Consensus and the changes in the region at the beginning of this century, the integration strategy is moving towards a more comprehensive perspective, by incorporating new key aspects, such as the emphasis on productive integration, the reduction of asymmetries and the promotion of the social, political and citizen dimensions of the process for integration of our peoples. In sum, it aims at the deepening of the virtuous interaction between national and regional development projects.

The paradigm change experienced over these years has resulted in specific achievements in each of the dimensions of integration. With respect to the reduction of asymmetries, the MERCOSUR Structural Convergence Fund (FOCEM) was created, for the purpose of solidarity and redistribution. The broadening of the agenda of regional public policies has resulted in the development of new institutions, such as the MERCOSUR Social Institute and the MERCOSUR Institute of Public Policies on Human Rights, among others. Likewise, the creation of new forums in the bloc has officialized the inclusion on the agenda of issues that had been ignored, such as family farming, cooperativism and gender equality.

The political dimension of the integration process has been boosted since the creation of spaces for participation by the authorities elected by our peoples. Such is the case of the MERCOSUR Parliament (Parlasur) and the Consultative Forum of Municipalities, Federal States, Provinces and Departments of MERCOSUR (FCCR), in which sub-national government authorities participate.

The process for expansion of the bloc, as well as the political decision of the presidents to call upon all South American countries to come together in the face of the existing complex international environment, so that the growth and social inclusion process that took place in the last decade may deepen and serve as a factor of economic and social stability, is a clear and conclusive political definition of the importance of regional integration to the strategy for development and international insertion of our countries.

The current context presents MERCOSUR with new challenges. The current readjustment of power relations at global level requires quick and accurate responses. The conviction underlying all the policies promoted by Argentina in MERCOSUR is that South American and Latin American and Caribbean integration, as the axis for strengthening the region and its nations, is strategic. This historical moment demands that we continue to consolidate the integration process in order to solve current dilemmas: how can we together face an uncertain world, while guaranteeing inclusion and equality in each country in the region?