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Volume 55 / Social Sciences


MELISSA H. BIRCH, Graduate School of Business, University of Virginia
RUSSELL E. SMITH, School of Business, Washburn University

WITH THE CREATION OF MERCOSUL, the Common Market of the South, regional integration has become an area of significant research interest in the already large and increasingly complex Brazilian economic literature. Created on March 26, 1991 with the signing of the Treaty of Asunción by Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay, and Uruguay, MERCOSUL is initially a customs union which is intended eventually to become a fully integrated common market. The treaty provided for the reduction and elimination of most tariffs among the four countries over a several-year period, with other measures including a common external tariff, permanent institutions, and a dispute resolution procedure to be decided by Jan. 1, 1995. While the MERCOSUL project falls short of a political union with supranational institutions, it does envision the coordination and harmonization of macroeconomic policies.

The literature reviewed for this volume includes several books rich in information which establish the history and transitional mechanisms of MERCOSUL and place the MERCOSUL project in the context of other trade regimes and previous integration projects (items bi 94009522, bi 94009588, and bi 93012413) or deal specifically with MERCOSUL from a labor relations point of view (item bi 94009563). A fifth volume on MERCOSUL, Latin American integration, and links to Europe was sponsored jointly by Brazil's Central Unica dos Trabalhadores and Italy's Confederazione Generale Italiana del Lavoro (item bi 94009524). The scope of the undertaking and the magnitude of the challenge is discussed in terms of the coordination of national policies (items bi 94016077 and bi 93024632) and the impact of integration on one particular industry (item bi 94004016). The importance for Brazil of extra-regional trade is reflected in the literature on the patterns of Brazilian trade (item bi 94003876) and the implications of NAFTA (item bi 94005815) for Brazilian trade and investment.

The move toward regional integration took place in the context of unilateral neoliberal trade reforms in Brazil, with far-reaching implications for Brazilian industrial and technology policies (item bi 94006461), and concurrently with significant modifications in world trade regimes represented by the Uruguay Round of the General Agreement on Tariff and Trade. These trade liberalizing trends significantly impact Brazil's external sector, industrial and agricultural production, and international relations (item bi 94001610).

The literature on trade reform seemed to displace temporarily the previous focus on macroeconomic stabilization programs. There was relative peace on the macroeconomic front since the period of central focus for this essay, 1992-93, fell between the 1990-91 Collor Plans and the 1994 Real Plan. Instead, the major contributions to the macroeconomic literature tended to come from award-winning masters' and doctoral theses which tried to make theoretical sense of the Brazilian inflation and stabilization experiences (items bi 94009510, bi 94009584, bi 94009530, and bi 94009590) and from books directed toward a broad non-professional audience with the goal of making the economic policy debate more accessible without sacrificing conceptual rigor (items bi 94009545, bi 94002213, and bi 94002280). There were several high-quality additions to the well-established literatures on regional development such as those on Minas Gerais (item bi 94009588) and Rio Grande do Sul (item bi 94002255), on the Brazilian model of economic development (item bi 94002303 and bi 94009564), and on Brazilian economic history (items bi 94009515, bi 94009552, and bi 94002264).

Two conferences are of special note: the widely publicized 1992 United Nations Conference on Economic Development and the Environment and the less-widely reported Encontro Nacional de Estudos do Trabalho (3rd, Rio de Janeiro, 1993), held by the Associaçao Brasileira de Estudos do Trabalho. The latter, the third biennial congress of a relatively new association of economists and sociologists founded in 1989, featured an ample and rich menu of sessions and papers, with topics ranging from teaching, data sources, and worker health and training, to labor relations, labor law, workplace flexibility and the organization of production, race, and gender (item bi 95017116).

The Rio environmental conference spawned a significant increase in the literature on economic development and environmental economics. While some had a distinctly regional focus (item bi 94002205), others dealt more broadly with conceptual issues (items bi 94009566, bi 94009540, and bi 94001720) and applications of theory to Brazilian data (item bi 94002239). Still others had a more activist tone, examining ongoing social movements in the environmental context (item bi 94009549).

Several of the items annotated below are of particular interest for the massive amounts of raw data they contain. Notable in this regard are data from the national household surveys (Pesquisa Nacional por Amostra de Domicílios or PNAD), including national and regional results from 1981-87 (item bi 94002197), a critique of labor force participation based on the PNAD data (item bi 93002441), and social indicators given in the fourth volume of a multi-volume study on social policy (item bi 94002259). Three other data-rich works provide detailed information on the informatics industry (item bi 94002207), the infrastructure industry (item bi 94009587), and on foreign direct investment in Brazil (item bi 94009525).

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