In This Review

Development and Democracy in the Southern Cone: Imperatives for U.S. Policy in South America
Development and Democracy in the Southern Cone: Imperatives for U.S. Policy in South America
By Sidney Weintraub
CSIS Press, 2000, 112 pp.

A succinct and clear-headed analysis of the U.S. relationship with the Mercosur trading bloc -- Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay, and Uruguay. Weintraub argues that Washington has often underestimated or simply neglected the intrinsic economic importance of the Mercosur countries, especially Brazil, even as the U.S. private sector has plunged ahead. Since Mercosur's ultimate goal is creating a common market, U.S. policymakers also need to understand these countries' political aspirations. Brazil's preference for free-trade agreements within South America over hemisphere-wide negotiations with Washington, for example, arises from Brazil's belief that this approach will provide Mercosur with more leverage against the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). Bras'lia also sees the U.S. commitment to opening its own markets as ambiguous at best as long as Congress refuses to grant the president "fast track" authority to speed up trade deals. Yet Brazil's politically driven economic strategy may be counterproductive. As Weintraub sees it, Brazil's interest lies in liberalizing trade with the United States above all else, given that the bulk of northbound Brazilian exports are manufactured products -- the sector that would benefit most from a hemisphere-wide free-trade agreement. The author forcefully argues that the economic issues are too important to be ignored, especially during international financial crises. But he concedes that more progress has been made in areas such as democratization, where the southern cone's prospects are especially bright.