Requiem or Revival? The Promise of North American Integration

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Requiem or Revival? The Promise of North American Integration

By Isabel Studer and Carol Wise
Brookings Institution Press, 2007
306 pp. $26.95

This Brookings collection poses a critical question: Why have the United States, Mexico, and Canada not been able to build more creatively on the promise of the North American Free Trade Agreement to make progress on vital transborder issues such as immigration, energy, infrastructure, and education, and what can be done to make progress now? Studer points to the deeply held U.S. animosity toward strong supranational institutions, despite their spectacular success in driving European integration and the development of Spain, Portugal, and Ireland. Wise blames the Fox administration and a divided, disruptive Mexican Congress for not achieving complementary domestic reforms through tax restructuring, energy-sector modernization, and competition policy. At this juncture, perhaps progress can best be achieved in smaller doses; the trade experts Jaime Zabludovsky and Sérgio Gómez Lora suggest stimulating the Mexican economy by consolidating existing U.S. bilateral trade agreements in the Western Hemisphere into a single 12-member free-trade zone, possibly leading to the completion of the NAFTA-inspired Free Trade Area of the Americas. Overall, the vital ingredient is more astute and better-focused political leadership and consensus building in all three countries, without which, Wise warns, "NAFTA could easily fade into the shadows of assertive experiments with regionalism in the Asia-Pacific."

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