Foundation Building for Western Hemispheric Integration

33 Pages Posted: 29 Aug 2011

See all articles by Frederick M. Abbott

Frederick M. Abbott

Florida State University - College of Law

Date Written: July 31, 1996


The creation of the NAFTA and the negotiation of the FTAA are profoundly important political and economic developments for the United States, just as the creation of the European Economic Community and the widening of the European Union are profoundly important political and economic developments on the other side of the Atlantic. Yet the logic of the western hemispheric integration process is not the logic of the European integration process. The historical situation of Europe is extraordinarily complex. Interstate violence played a central role in the creation and evolution of the European Union. The need for rapid post-World War II economic rebuilding of European industry and agriculture overshadowed purely national concerns and helped to overcome historical rivalries among the Member States and their citizens. The postwar threat of the Soviet empire provided a basis for Western European political cohesion that, in retrospect, may have been only dimly understood. Though the European Union is now struggling to find direction, there remains strong consensus that the core function of the Union in preserving European peace and security should remain intact.

If there is a logic to the western hemispheric integration process, it is a different logic than the logic of Europe. Interstate violence has played a very limited historical role among the nations of the western hemisphere. Internal strife, on the other hand, has plagued many nations of Latin America. Low rates of economic growth throughout the four decades following the Second World War worked great economic and social hardship. The promise of more rapid economic growth impelled a recent change in government attitudes towards trade and investment and paved the way for the FTAA negotiations.

The first draft of this article was prepared in early 1995 immediately following the Mexican peso crisis and was presented as part of a lecture series at U.C. Berkeley School of Law. The thesis of that draft was (1) that there was a net positive social welfare value to the NAFTA; (2) that there was a lack of political support for a socially progressive NAFTA in the United States that gave rise to doubts concerning its viability; and (3) that analytical tools developed by political and social scientists might assist public policy planners in the United States to address the underlying lack of support that threatened the NAFTA enterprise. Over the past two years the immediacy of the peso crisis has faded. The NAFTA increasingly appears as a component of a broader long-term hemispheric picture that is slowly coming into focus. For this reason, the focus of the article has changed.

This article is now directed to the steps that should be taken to build a foundation for the longer-term enterprise of western hemispheric integration. The article begins by reviewing the work of political and social scientists who have stressed that international and regional institution-building require the self-interest and support of key actors and interest groups involved in the process. The success of a regional integration effort may well depend on the presence of a sufficient confluence of self-interests among key actors and interest groups throughout economically important countries in a region. This article concentrates as a starting point on United States interest groups and political actors and considers whether these key actors and interest groups have a self-interest in the success of hemispheric integration. It suggests some ways that domestic support for the future western hemispheric integration process may be enhanced.

Ultimately, the process of building the FTAA will not be successful simply because it is supported in the United States, even though it will certainly fail from a lack of U.S. support. The building of a regional integration arrangement requires support from throughout a region. There remains ahead the very large task of identifying the key actors and interest groups throughout the nations of the prospective FTAA and their self-interests in the integration process. Western hemispheric economic integration can be undertaken in a socially responsible manner that will result in a net positive social welfare value for the people of the United States and the western hemisphere as a whole. The essential questions that must be addressed in the process of institution building concern the shape of the process: who will benefit and what will be its impact on the overall quality of life in the region? It certainly is not enough that a regional integration arrangement be built; an arrangement that promotes the social welfare interests of the people of this hemisphere must be built.

Keywords: FTAA, NAFTA, regional integration, neo-functional, European Community

JEL Classification: F02, F15, G28, K33, N46, O51, O54

Suggested Citation

Abbott, Frederick M., Foundation Building for Western Hemispheric Integration (July 31, 1996). Northwestern Journal of International Law & Business, Vol. 17, 1996-97, Available at SSRN:

Frederick M. Abbott (Contact Author)

Florida State University - College of Law ( email )

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Tallahassee, FL 32306
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