In This Review

Regional Integration in Latin America and the Caribbean
Regional Integration in Latin America and the Caribbean
Edited by Victor Bulmer-Thomas
Brookings Institution Press, 2001, 322 pp

In this timely and comprehensive overview, Bulmer-Thomas has brought together distinguished experts to examine Latin America's shift away from the "old regionalism" of import substitution, limited inter-regional economic contacts, and high tariffs. After the debt crisis of the 1980s, they write, a "new regionalism" was necessary to integrate Latin American countries fully into the global trade system. This push began with the liberalization of tariffs, capital flows, and goods and services, achieving a substantial rise in foreign direct investment in the region. The role of the World Trade Organization in settling trade conflicts and the growing importance of intellectual property rights in new "knowledge-based" economies are also discussed. Optimism aside, the authors also point out that the region has only just begun to deal with the more sensitive elements of globalization's impact -- especially labor flows and environmental concerns. They also touch on how the U.S. interest in open regionalism became fortified after the 1980s, leading ultimately to the North American Free Trade Agreement and the more recent talk of a Free Trade Area of the Americas. In sum, the cost of this new regionalism has been modest while the potential benefits remain significant. Regardless of the difficulties in individual countries, they write, Latin America will continue to pursue greater competitiveness and integration into the global system.