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How did Mercosur's policies evolve in the early 21st century?

In the early 21st century, Mercosur's policies evolved towards greater economic integration and political cooperation among member countries.

Mercosur, also known as the Southern Common Market, is a regional economic and political bloc comprising Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay, Uruguay, and Venezuela (suspended since 2016). In the early 21st century, the bloc's policies underwent significant changes, primarily aimed at deepening economic integration and fostering political cooperation among member states. This evolution was driven by the shared recognition of the need for a more coordinated approach to address common challenges and maximise the benefits of regional integration.

One of the key policy shifts was the adoption of a common external tariff (CET) to protect the bloc's industries from foreign competition. This was a significant step towards the creation of a customs union, which is a higher form of economic integration than a free trade area. The CET was not uniformly applied, however, with exceptions made for certain sectors and products in each member country. This reflected the ongoing challenges of harmonising economic policies among countries with different levels of development and industrial capacity.

Another important policy evolution was the strengthening of political cooperation mechanisms. This was manifested in the creation of new institutions such as the Mercosur Parliament, which was established in 2005 to provide a forum for dialogue and decision-making on issues of common interest. The bloc also adopted a democratic clause, which stipulates that any member country that suffers a rupture of democratic order can be suspended from the bloc. This clause was invoked to suspend Paraguay in 2012 and Venezuela in 2016.

Furthermore, Mercosur pursued policies to expand its external relations and negotiate trade agreements with other countries and regions. This was part of a broader strategy to increase the bloc's global competitiveness and diversify its economic relations. However, these efforts have been hampered by internal disagreements and the complexities of negotiating as a bloc.

In summary, the early 21st century saw Mercosur's policies evolve towards greater economic integration and political cooperation. However, the implementation of these policies has been uneven and has faced numerous challenges, reflecting the complexities of regional integration in a diverse and dynamic region.

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