Academic journal article Ibero-americana

The Mini-States within the Caribbean Basin in the Inter-American Integration Process*

Academic journal article Ibero-americana

The Mini-States within the Caribbean Basin in the Inter-American Integration Process*

Article excerpt

I. INTRODUCTION

The term 'integration', in general, signifies the "coming together of parts into a whole". And though it has been having a profound and significant impact on international political economy, history has shown that regional integration is not easy to achieve, as this process entails the ability of the factions involved to interconnect and compromise on very delicate matters. Regional integration is motivated by various needs and goals - political, economic, social, etc. The classic approach to this enterprise submitted by Balassa (1961)1 defined integration as a process, which commences with linking countries through the process of trade with the elimination of trade restrictions. But there are quite a number of definitions to the concept. On the basis of evidence presented in some works, the endeavor is clearly understood as the creation of security communities (or zones of peace) among states in a region (Deutch et al, 1957). Other scholars perceive integration in terms of the radical reordering of both the conventional international order and of the existing authoritative structures of governance, defining the process as the voluntary creation of larger political units involving the self-conscious eschewal of force in relations between participating institutions.

Furthermore, regional integration has been described as the process whereby political actors in several distinct national settings are persuaded to shift their loyalties, expectations and political activities toward a new center, whose institutions possess or demand jurisdiction over pre-existing national states. The end result of a process of political integration is a new political community, superimposed over the pre-existing ones (Mass, 1968). Integration is also defined as the formation of new political systems out of hitherto separate political systems (Hodges, 1972). And some analysts take the definition a step forward, defining the effort through placing emphasis on the importance of central institutions. In accordance with this thought, the integration process is defined as the attainment within an area of the bonds of political community, of central institutions with binding decision-making powers and methods of control determining the allocation of values at the regional level and also of adequate consensus-formation mechanisms (Harrison, 1974). And yet, other angles are taken by specialists who define the task as the creation and maintenance of intense and diversified patterns of interaction among previously autonomous units (Wallace, 1990).

After considering the different thoughts on this subject, there is no doubt that regional integration process is only completed when trade, monetary, fiscal and social policies are united within a single institution that interprets and sets the mechanisms and rules for the system to function by. Last, but by no ways least, the process of regional integration entails the 'will ' of the inhabitants concerned. It is a sovereignty-enhancing process in which the capacity of the people (especially those living in the 'least developed sections' of a given region) to shape their own social and political development could be effectively strengthened. And because regional integration inevitably involves the 'disproportionate concentration of economic flows', and the co-ordination of foreign economic policies among a group of countries of varying potential (that are) in close geographic proximity, it is necessary to make a profound analysis of the position of the small Caribbean Basin states within the inter-American integration process prior to the Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA) arrangement.

II. GLOBAL IMPLICATIONS OF WESTERN HEMISPHERE INTEGRATION

Throughout the twentieth century, the world has moved steadily towards broader regional groupings that have helped us set aside some of our national differences, avoid open direct conflict, and concentrate on the benefits of cooperation. …

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