This chapter surveys the last fifty years of United States economic history. The purpose is to place the economic integration project of the US, Canada and Mexico within an historical perspective. From this long-run point of view, NAFTA represents both continuity and change in the economic policies of the United States. On the one hand, NAFTA is an expression of tendencies in the United States to seek out bilateral solutions to trade issues. Nevertheless, it is also a reflection of broader forces in the international economy which are bringing all three NAFTA countries into closer economic proximity. In terms of both US policy and the apparent commercial evolution of North America, NAFTA is a continuation of ongoing forces. On the other hand, as a harbinger of increased Western Hemispheric and North Atlantic economic integration, NAFTA could mark the beginning of a trend towards a much wider and deeper integration which will have profound implications for national economic conditions. This is particularly true insofar as it applies to US-Mexico relations. In spite of the 2,000 mile common border, history, culture and politics have conspired to make US-Mexican relations far less cordial and trusting than US-Canadian relations. NAFTA in this context represents the possibility for change.
From the vantage point of the post- World War II era, it is frequently assumed that the United States has always favored free and open markets. It is often noted that the Declaration of Independence, proclaiming the separation of the thirteen colonies from Great Britain, was