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Free Trade in the Americas: Regional Trade Agreements as National Security Policy

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Increasingly, Americas security objectives are defined by U.S. economic interests. In Latin America, closed economies and authoritarian governments are transitioning to market-oriented systems and democratic institutions, resulting in increased goodwill and cooperation between the U.S. and Latin America. In 1993, President Clinton pushed hard and won congressional approval on the North American Free Trade Agreement NAFTA between the U.S., Canada, and Mexico. Along with this, he orchestrated the landmark Summit of the Americas in December 1994 between the U.S., Canada, and the democratically-elected leaders of Latin America and the Caribbean. The result of the Miami Summit was a proclamation that the nations of the Western Hemisphere would establish a hemispheric free trade area with a target date of 2005. However, in 1994 and 1995, the peso crisis, brought on by a series of problems within Mexico, caused that countrys financial system to collapse along with the hopes for a hemispheric free trade pact in the near future. This paper argues that, while NAFTA and its South American counterpart Mercado Comun del Sur, or MERCOSUR are formed on an economic basis, the true value of a regional free trade agreement is as a national security strategy tool. It also looks at NAFTA and MERCOSUR in detail, examines the power relationship between countries in the region, and discusses those issues of greatest concern to the U.S. regarding a free trade expansion within Latin America. Ultimately, the U.S. should pursue and expand its current strategy because of foreign policy implications and it should not allow its long-term interests to be derailed because of temporary setbacks in the financial and trade arena.

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  • Administration and Management
  • Economics and Cost Analysis

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