Toward Economic Integration

Article excerpt

In the Declaration of Principles and Plan of Action adopted at the Summit of the Americas held in Miami in December 1994, a decision was taken by the thirty-four heads of state and government "to begin immediately to construct the 'Free Trade Area of the Americas' (FTAA), in which barriers to trade and investment will be progressively eliminated" and to conclude the pertinent negotiations no later than 2005. The leaders also agreed to make concrete progress toward the attainment of that objective by the end of this century, fully recognizing the significant progress that has already been realized through the unilateral undertakings of each of the nations and the regional and subregional integration agreements.

The Summit of the Americas assigned the Organization of American States (OAS) "a particularly important support role" with respect to, inter alia, free trade in the Americas. More specifically, it directed the OAS Special Committee on Trade (SCT) - a forum made up of high-level trade officials representing each member state, with the support of the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), the United Nations Economic Commission on Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC), and other regional and subregional organizations - to assist in the systematization of data in the region and to prepare a comparative analysis of the various obligations under each of the hemisphere's existing trade agreements. Furthermore, the heads of state and government requested the SCT to present an interim report of its work to the Meeting of Trade Ministers which was held in Denver, Colorado, on June 30, 1995. In addition to the SCT and its Advisory Group, a new Trade Unit was established last April under the Office of the OAS Secretary General, to strengthen the capabilities of the Organization in dealing with trade issues.

The first attempts to promote economic integration in Latin America originated in the late 1940s and early 1950s. This process was greatly influenced by the ideas put forward by Raul Prebisch, the then-secretary general of ECLAC. Essentially, the first thirty years were characterized by import-substitution and inward-looking policies, and state intervention. Import-substitution policies were seen as the main instrument to reduce the dependence of Latin American countries on exports of primary products. In the 1930s exports revenues dropped as prices of primary products fell sharply.

Economic integration in Latin America and the Caribbean began with the first generation of trade arrangements and the establishment of LAFTA (Latin American Free Trade Association) in February 1960; the Central American Common Market (CACM) in December 1960; the Andean Pact in May 1969; and the Caribbean Community and Common Market (CARICOM) in July 1973. …