The Rise and Demise of the Free Trade Area of the Americas: A Case Study in Counter-Hegemony

Thumbnail Image
Nelson, Marcel
Global Governance , Regionalism , Gramsci , Free Trade , FTAA
This dissertation examines the failure to achieve a final agreement for the Free Trade Area of the Americas(FTAA)at the 2005 Mar del Plata Summit of the Americas. The predominant explanation for this outcome highlights the economic asymmetries and the lack of economic interdependence between the participating states. In view of these structural impediments, based on original field interviews and extensive document analysis, the author goes a step further and argues that these factors were exacerbated by an ideological shift that took place during the decade that the FTAA was negotiated. Specifically, it is argued that the emerging consensus in the hemisphere that was in place at the launching of the FTAA negotiations in 1994 centered on the desirability of economic liberalization; this began to unravel in view of growing political challenges to neo-liberalism in many of the Americas’ social formations. This particular political challenge of economic liberalization emerged against the background of the failure of neo-liberal reforms to achieve their promised results, and the resultant socio-economic polarization. In many social formations, this polarization led to crises of authority, which sometimes opened the political arena to social forces that articulated, to different degrees, alternatives to neo-liberalism. In two countries of import for the FTAA, Venezuela and Brazil, governments were elected which challenged the United States’ leadership within the FTAA negotiations, based on a discourse of state sovereignty. In broader terms, the growing de-legitimization of neo-liberalism in the Americas engendered crises of authority in certain countries, notably in Venezuela and Brazil. This in turn brought forth political dynamics that constrained the United States’ hegemony in the hemisphere, which would have been consolidated by the FTAA. As such, this dissertation draws upon a Gramscian analysis to examine the manner in which crises of authority, rooted in the social formations of the hemisphere, came to be manifested within the institutional framework of the FTAA. Consequently, this work further demonstrates that global governance structures are not only mechanisms through which hegemony is disseminated and counter-hegemony is absorbed, but that they can serve as spaces where hegemony can be confronted and counter-hegemony articulated.
External DOI