Nafta and Mercosur Essay

14561 Words Jun 7th, 2012 59 Pages
Economy and Society Volume 37 Number 2 May 2008: 193Á223

Regional trade agreements and the pursuit of state interests: institutional perspectives from NAFTA and Mercosur
Francesco Duina and Jason Buxbaum

Abstract
Are regional trade agreements (RTAs) carefully crafted projects that systematically advance their member states’ interests or do they instead generate outcomes that frustrate those interests? Works on the most prominent RTA Á the European Union Á have traditionally been split over this question. New research on international organizations parallels that literature. Combining rational choice and historical institutionalism, this article makes a middle-ground case: the limited rationality of national representatives and the
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21). Between 1990 and 1994, officials from the World Trade Organization were notified of thirty-three new RTAs, more than doubling the total to sixty-eight. Then, between 1995 and 2001, another 100 RTAs formed (Duina, 2006, p. 3). Today, almost every country on earth belongs to an RTA. This impressive trend raises an important question: to what extent are these RTAs carefully crafted projects that systematically advance the interests of their member states? This question, of course, has been on the minds of legal scholars of the European Union (EU) Á the oldest and most prominent RTA Á for decades. The primary debate has been between intergovernmentalists, who have argued that states control the course of integration and thus ensure the systematic fulfilment of their interests,1 and an assorted variety of neo-functionalists, neoinstitutionalists and others intent on showing that the EU has acquired an unpredictable life of its own to the detriment of those interests.2 The polarized debate continues to date, since the EU Á with its complicated and multifaceted structure and processes Á provides both camps with strong evidence in support of their claims. The question is also very much at the heart of the growing debate over institutions in general, where we also find a split in perspectives (Campbell, 2004). A number

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