When the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) came into force on January 1st, 1994, it created the largest free trade area in the world, and the one with the largest gaps in development between member countries. It has since served as a framework for trilateral commercial exchange and investment between Canada, Mexico, and the United States. NAFTA’s consequences have been mixed. On the positive side, the total value of trade in the region reached $1.1 trillion in 2016, more than three times the amount in 1994, and total foreign direct investment among member countries also grew significantly. However, the distribution of benefits has been very uneven, with exposure to international competition reducing economic opportunity and increasing insecurity for certain sectors in all three countries. Twenty-four years later, the three countries renegotiated the terms of NAFTA and renamed it the United States–Mexico–Canada Agreement (USMCA). The negotiation responded in part to the need to modernize the agreement, but mostly to President Donald Trump’s concerns about NAFTA’s effect on the U.S. economy and the fairness of its terms. Although the revised agreement incorporated rules that modernize certain aspects of the institutional framework, some new provisions also make trade and investment relations in North America more uncertain.
Gustavo A. Flores-Macías and Mariano Sánchez-Talanquer
Kerry A. Chase
Government policies to protect and promote national culture are a perennial issue in the trading system. Controversy over trade and culture, in almost every instance, swirls around entertainment media—mainly movies, television, video, and music. The object of contention is that many states employ an assortment of financial, trade, and regulatory measures to subsidize locally produced entertainment, restrict imports, and favor national content over foreign content. Such measures often impede trade, pitting commercial interests in open markets and free choice against calls for state action to mitigate trade’s social repercussions. Differing perspectives on the motives behind these policies typify disputes over trade and culture. In one view, state regulation of entertainment media is cultural policy, an essential means of preserving a nation’s identity, culture, and way of life. From another vantage point, these policies are backdoor protectionism, a handout to local business and labor under the guise of cultural preservation. The problem of trade and culture therefore raises basic questions about politics: Why do states subsidize production and restrict imports? What drives political demands for trade protection and government aid? How can variation in policy responses be understood? In the World Trade Organization (WTO), disputes over trade and culture center on two related issues. The first is inclusion of a “cultural exception” in trade rules to green-light, on cultural grounds, state actions that interfere with trade in entertainment media. Although there is no cultural exception in the WTO, pressure to accommodate the “specificity” of entertainment media as a cultural phenomenon has complicated trade negotiations and at times required give and take to placate the opposing sides. The second issue is policy liberalization in entertainment media, which has lagged behind market opening in many other goods and services. Deadlock over trade and culture has inspired some WTO members to explore other options: the European Union (EU) and Canada spearheaded the push for a Convention on Cultural Diversity, and the United States has pursued policy liberalization in a series of free trade agreements. Important political questions again crop up: Why has culture stalemated the WTO, and why haven’t trade linkages like those for health safety standards been institutionalized for trade and culture? Why do international political alignments on this problem form as they do? What explains the design of trade rules for entertainment media, and what is the trade regime’s impact on state policy? The age-old conflict over trade and culture continues to play out and shows no signs of abating.
Official relations between Chile and the European Union (formerly the European Communities) date back to 1967 when the two parties first opened diplomatic representations in Brussels and Santiago, respectively. As Chile transitioned to a democratic polity from 1990, the relationship deepened. Reflecting the EU’s support for democratization in Latin America, both parties formalized ties through the signing of a Cooperation Framework Agreement in 1991 and a Framework Agreement on Trade and Economic Cooperation in 1996. The latter set Chile and the EU on the path to eventually negotiating an Association Agreement, including a preferential trade agreement (PTA), between 1999 and 2002. The Association Agreement has been in force since 2003, and in 2017 Chile and the EU decided to launch negotiations to modernize the preferential trade agreement part of the Association. The bilateral relationship, and its study, have been defined by three key areas: (1) political relations, (2) cooperation relations, and (2) economic relations. The political and cooperation ties between the two parties have, in turn, been determined by two strands of EU external policies: (1) the EU’s overarching approach toward relations with Latin America, and (2) the evolution of the EU’s development policy. Economic relations, for their part, cover rising trade flows and increasing investment (especially EU foreign direct investment outflows and stocks in Chile). Chile’s attractiveness, despite its relatively small economy and population, derives from its specific political economy. Chile’s painful market reforms under the Pinochet regime set it on a path of greater economic openness than its neighbours. Democratic governments since 1990 have continued policies of trade liberalization, low tariffs, and active engagement in the creation of a dense network of global preferential trade agreements with Chile at its center as a gateway to Latin America. This has helped to diversify Chilean trade relations away from over-reliance on the EU or the United States, and has made Chile an attractive target for foreign investment. The trade agreement part of the Association Agreement ushered in deeper economic ties, and a body of scholarly analyses of the agreement and its impacts has slowly emerged. Relations with Chile have formed part of the EU’s broader strategy toward Latin America, rather than independent EU strategy. Initial steps toward an Association Agreement were within the context of negotiations for an Association Agreement between the EU and Mercosur (the Common Market of the South). Analysis of the EU–Chile relationship has, as a result, tended to be sparse and to be included as a subsection in studies of broader EU–Latin America relations, and especially EU–Mercosur relations. Nevertheless, the relationship represents a positive example of successful engagement with a relatively like-minded partner in a mature association, and demonstrates the extent of and possibilities for EU foreign policy engagement. Moreover, the relationship has served as a testing ground for new types of projects and collaborations and for mutual learning, such as the parties’ joint projects on increasing gender representation in politics, or the inclusion of gender clauses, for the first time in an EU preferential trade agreement, in the modernization of the EU–Chile agreement.
Integration attempts in Latin America have historically been linked to the European experience. Transatlantic influence has gone from policy learning through institutional mimicry to direct funding. Modern Latin American regionalism dates back to 1960, when the Central American Common Market and the Latin American Free Trade Association (LAFTA) were founded. Both associations were a response to the creation of the European Economic Community in 1957 and the fear that “Fortress Europe” would cut extra-regional markets off, so alternatives should be developed. The Latin American blocs aspired to overcome the small size of the national markets by fostering economies of scale. Shortly thereafter, European-born, U.S.-based political scientist Ernst Haas—jointly with Philippe Schmitter—put to the test the neofunctionalist theory he had developed for Europe to analyze Central American integration, correctly diagnosing the latter’s limitations and forecasting its setbacks. LAFTA also faltered and failed and, in 1980, the Latin American Integration Association (ALADI by its Spanish acronym) replaced it. A decade later, ALADI would become MERCOSUR’s umbrella organization. After the third wave of democratization, which in Latin America started in 1978, new attempts at regional integration took hold, and MERCOSUR was initially considered as the most successful. Successive leaders of the European Union (EU) nurtured big hopes and devoted a great deal of attention to EU–MERCOSUR relations, first assisting with integration technology, material resources, and intellectual guidance and, since 1995, conducting several rounds of negotiations to strike a trade deal. The path that had led to MERCOSUR resembled that of the EU, as it started in 1985 with functional and sectoral integration (wheat and oil prominently, in place of coal and steel) around the Argentina–Brazil axis. A few years later, in 1991, the binational association was opened up to Paraguay and Uruguay and transformed itself into a typical Balassa-like organization, prioritizing broader market integration over focused sectoral integration—just like the Treaty of Rome had done in Europe. Intra-regional trade tripled during the first seven years, but it later stagnated and never bounced back. As a result, the member states decided to up the rhetorical ante and broaden the areas encompassed by the organization rather than fostering economic interdependence or deepening the level of regional authority. An optional tribunal and a powerless parliament were established in 2002 and 2005 respectively. The outcome was grim: more institutions on paper did not enhance performance in practice. Having exhausted the internal agenda, the external agenda remained the only one where positive developments were still expected. In 2019, after twenty years of bumping negotiations, a political agreement on a comprehensive trade deal was reached with the European Union, MERCOSUR’s role model and largest trade partner. If this agreement is signed and ratified, it will become the largest interregional arrangement ever.