Over the past 30 years, less developed countries 1 have established several regional economic organizations to address their poverty, underdevelopment, and external dependency. Economic imperatives and the rationales for cooperation intuitively seem sufficient to ensure that national political leaderships would engage in the give and take necessary to achieve their stated goals. Yet, the historical record reveals a faltering pattern for most regional cooperative efforts. At best, they have experienced uneven results; many are now defunct. Why is this the case?
During the 1940s through the 1970s, functionalist and neofunctionalist theorists identified a plethora of factors that may contribute to the success of economic cooperative schemes during their startup, operational, and output phases. However, even the most successful integration effort among advanced industrial countries, the European Communities, was buffeted by the economic upheavals of the 1970s and early 1980s. Regional economic integration efforts among developing countries were even more severely affected. Despairing of achieving progress via regional strategies, many developing countries turned their energies to lobbying for reform of multilateral institutions in such futile efforts as the call for a New International Economic Order.
The international political economy of the 1990s provides qualitatively different challenges to national economies and their governments. Global interdependence is more pervasive and complex than ever before. Advanced industrial countries suffer from structural rigidities that foster the decline of formerly mainstay industries and chronically high unemployment. Trade competition is fierce, and volatility plagues global