In This Review

The Making of NAFTA: How the Deal Was Done
The Making of NAFTA: How the Deal Was Done
By Maxwell A. Cameron and Brian W. Tomlin
Cornell University Press, 2000, 258 pp
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Conflict Amid Consensus in American Trade Policy
Conflict Amid Consensus in American Trade Policy
By Martha L. Gibson
Georgetown University Press, 2000, 213 pp
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Although other books have done more on the work to gain congressional approval for the North American Free Trade Agreement in 1993, Cameron and Tomlin have written the best book so far on the substantive negotiations themselves, which were almost entirely conducted during the Bush administration. The American team was constrained by Congress and interest groups, but the constraints paradoxically enhanced its negotiating power against the disciplined Mexican team that badly wanted an agreement. Yet the Mexicans were so disciplined and committed because they were so unrepresentative of the Mexican institutions that they hoped NAFTA would transform.

The Gibson book, in contrast, tries to reconstruct the fluctuating areas of partisan agreement and conflict over trade within Congress, but the author understandably has trouble finding a very usable pattern. Both books agree on the theoretical power of analyzing trade issues as multilevel games, at once both international and domestic. But the theoretical framework does not do much to explain how the games will play out. Gibson writes, "The nested-games or any multilevel framework, then, should be viewed as a heuristic tool that complements research at more finite levels." Indeed.