What's New in the New Regionalism in the Americas?
May 2001
The centrifugal forces of economic globalization in the 1990's ran parallel with centripetal forces of regionalization. While seemingly pulling in opposite directions, the two forces reflected complementary dimensions of dynamic capitalist market development. The completion of the Uruguay Round and growing membership in the World Trade Organization (WTO) was accompanied by a situation in which regional integration schemes became commonplace; indeed, practically all WTO members are now party to one or more regional accords. Latin America is a good example of these dual forces. Between the mid-1980s and 1990s the region unilaterally reduced its average external tariff from over 40% to 12 %. The region also actively participated in the Uruguay Round and by the end of the decade all Latin American countries were members of the WTO. Meanwhile, there was a parallel wave of new reciprocal free trade and integration agreements, around twenty in number. These trends were accompanied by a strong average growth of international trade in the 1990s and a marked increase in intraregional trade. This paper attempts to substantiate that Latin America┬┐s recent wave of regional integration is indeed a New Regionalism, quite different from the old, and hence merits a more comprehensive perspective than in the past.