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Open Access Publications from the University of California

The Politics of North American Economic Integration


The political rhythms of pro-free trade coalitions in North and South America seem to be out of sync. After the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) was signed, free traders looked like they were on a roll towards expansion throughout the hemisphere. Chile was poised to follow Mexico into NAFTA. Mercosur began to take off. For much of the post-NAFTA period, however, most Latin American governments were more prepared to sign a hemispheric free-trade agreement than the United States was. NAFTA’s persistent domestic political costs blocked President Clinton’s effort to renew fast-track negotiating au-thority. By the time President George W. Bush scraped together a slim congressional majority to regain presidential trade-negotiating author-ity, the political winds in South America had shifted and were empow-ering skeptics in Brazil, Argentina, Venezuela, Ecuador, and Bolivia. By early 2003 negotiations towards a Free Trade Area of the Americas had reached their late middle phase, a timely moment to review research on the political economy of North American economic integration.

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