With the completion of NAFTA and the Uruguay Round, trade strategists are beginning to think about the next major steps in the evolution of the international trading system. Of course, NAFTA has a 15-year transition phase, and the forthcoming World Trade Organization has much business left over from the Uruguay Round. But the prolific Hufbauer-Schott team is thinking ahead, and this fact-filled volume addresses the question of a "Western Hemisphere Free Trade Area" called WHFTA.
The authors estimate the economic impact of a WHFTA on the United States (small), third countries (small), and Latin America (substantial, stimulating economic growth by a not-quite-believable 1.5 percent a year). The authors also calculate a "readiness index" and conclude that many are moving in the right direction but that most countries in the hemisphere are not yet ready for WHFTA. The notable exceptions are Chile and Trinidad, which are judged to be more ready than Mexico was in 1990.
This book is not for readers who do not like numbers. It is full of quantitative facts and ingenious calculated estimates, although it does not venture into the domain of higher mathematics. The main problem with the book is its title: it discusses intelligently a future strategy for U.S. trade policy, but there is no reason to confine it to the Western Hemisphere, some of which is very far away. Mexico is special not because it is Latin American but because it has a long border with the United States.