In the whirlwind of globalization and multilateralism
The case of emerging regionalism in Latin America
The integration of a growing number of developing countries into world markets, most particularly those Latin American economies for a long time both forgotten and self-excluded, is a clear example of a transformation taking place in the global political economy. The new economic ‘openness’ across the globe should be seen as the heyday of liberalism, multiplying numbers of countries converting to open markets not by the force of empire but by the attraction of markets. For those influenced by liberal institutionalism, this environment should have been a conducive one for a re-invigorated multilateralism. Openness and multilateralism have traditionally been viewed as part and parcel of the same process. (Ruggie 1993)
If globalization is the precipitous convergence of world markets, increasingly incorporating countries formerly lying in the periphery, it should lead to a deepening and strengthening of multilateral trade relations. Since multilateralism also expresses an impulse and an aspiration to universality (Kahler 1993), globalization should naturally have come as the heyday of multilateralism. Yet multilateralism seems to have lost primacy precisely when more countries have become bound up with global trade relations. Advances in regional integration agreements are today considerably more pronounced than the successes of the multilateral system of the World Trade Organization (WTO). In practice, it may even be the case that globalization and multilateralism are diverging rather than reinforcing each other. It could be argued that, paradoxically, globalization has not accelerated but has actually slowed down the development of the multilateralist trading system over the last decade. An understanding of this paradox lies in the foundations of the multilateralist system, its fundamentals and assumptions, and on the challenges that the widespread adoption of liberal trade policies poses to its imagery.
This chapter is prompted by what I think is a paradox for institutionalist interpretations of international relations: why is the increasing openness and trade liberalization of developing countries not feeding into the accelerated development of the multilateral trade regime? Although the chapter is heavily inspired by the changes unfolding in Latin America, it also strives to attain a greater level of conceptual generality; it will attempt to resolve this paradox