In the last chapter we briefly examined theories of international trade and economic integration, as well as the various multilateral institutions that have managed the global economy throughout the post-World War II period. In this chapter we explore the evolution of the main features of the global economy over that period, especially as it relates to North American integration. The main objective is to show the relationship between important international events and the development of international multilateral institutions and economic theory in the entire post-World War II period, on the one hand, and the emergence of NAFTA in the 1990s, on the other. We believe that an understanding of this link is necessary in order to understand: (1) the forces that have shaped current economic integration efforts in North America, and (2) the nature of the current controversies that divide proponents and opponents of the integration process. We also give special attention to events and trends in Latin America, the most likely region to become associated with NAFTA in the near future. History is important because it has conditioned current economic policies and institutions as well as our thinking regarding what can or should be done now and in the future.
Some of the ideas discussed in this chapter have been touched on already in the preceding chapters. However, they reappear here in a different context, as part of the evolution of the global economy and the intellectual thought that attempts to explain that evolution. In order to facilitate this discussion we invite the reader to follow the time line illustrated in Table 3.1, as we believe it will help to organize