Interpreting NAFTA: The Science and Art of Political Analysis

Interpreting NAFTA: The Science and Art of Political Analysis

Interpreting NAFTA: The Science and Art of Political Analysis

Interpreting NAFTA: The Science and Art of Political Analysis

Synopsis

Drawing on a wide range of documents and interviews with officials in the United States, Mexico, and Canada, as well the author's experience as an aide to Senator Bill Bradley during negotiations, Interpreting NAFTA is a history of the agreement's development, from opening talks to final passage. Frederick W. Mayer combines recent work in international relations, comparative politics, interest groups, and public opinion to develop a broad theoretical framework that crosses between international relations and domestic politics. Mayer demonstrates that to understand NAFTA, one must view it as simultaneously a matter of political interests, institutions, and ideas.

Excerpt

In August 1992,1 took leave of my position at Duke University to spend what I expected to be a year in Washington, D.C. I had won an International Affairs Fellowship from the Council on Foreign Relations, a program designed to take young scholars away from academia and expose them to the world of actual foreign policy making. Because my academic interests were in international negotiations, specifically the relationship between domestic politics and international processes, my hope was to find a perch close to the action for the biggest international negotiation going: the negotiation among the United States, Mexico, and Canada to reach a North American Free Trade Agreement, more commonly known as NAFTA.

The natural place to be was at the Office of the United States Trade Representative (USTR), the lead agency for international trade negotiations, where a number of previous Council fellows had worked. But by the summer of 1992, when I had to decide where to locate, the NAFTA negotiations appeared to be nearing the end, which meant that the next hot arena would likely be the Congress. I had not really considered working on the Hill, but I learned that Senator Bill Bradley was looking for a fellow to handle foreign policy matters and that he intended to be involved with NAFTA when it came to Capitol Hill. My colleagues warned me that being a fellow in a Senate office might not involve much actual contact with the senator and that there was no guarantee that Bradley, only the fourth ranking Democrat on the Senate Finance Committee, would actually be a pivotal player, but the prospect of working for Bill Bradley was alluring.

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