When the North American Free Trade Agreement went into effect on January 1, 1994, it raised the hopes of millions of people in Mexico, Canada and the United States that the agreement would enhance production efficiency, create jobs and increase investment within the North American continent. Its chances for success -- for a successful conclusion to the negotiating process, for ratification by the respective legislative bodies of the three signatory countries, and for achieving its objectiveshad been enhanced by the global economic context, by economic opening already well under way in Mexico, and by the demonstration effects of a prior bilateral trade agreement between Canada and the United States, CUSFTA.
However, despite high expectations for a wide range of benefits to accrue through North American economic integration, NAFTA was flawed. Its imperfections did not go unnoticed, but for a variety of reasons they were allowed to remain as part of the final document. These weaknesses will plague North America in the future and hinder the operation of institutional instruments as the region attempts to integrate vastly asymmetrical economic systems. In this respect, NAFTA is predestined to undergo a difficult implementation process -- and ultimately to emerge as a working agreement born not out of cool mediation, but by trial by the fires of political, economic and social interests.
Preceding chapters have dealt with the processes of economic integration in North America: exchanges of exports and imports, trade in services and so on. There were also chapters on the individual economies of the three countries of North America, outlining in de-