Review of International Studies

Research Article

The contradictions of regionalism in North America

ANN CAPLING and KIM RICHARD NOSSAL*

Abstract

Students of regionalism almost reflexively include North America in their lists of regions in contemporary global politics. Inevitably students of regionalism point to the integrative agreements between the countries of North America: the two free trade agreements that transformed the continental economy beginning in the late 1980s – the Canada–US Free Trade Agreement that came into force on 1 January 1989, and the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) between the United States, Mexico, and Canada, that came into force on 1 January 1994 – and the Secutity and Prosperity Partnership of North America (SPP), launched in March 2005. These agreements, it is implied, are just like the integrative agreements that forge the bonds of regionalism elsewhere in the world. We argue that this is a profound misreading, not only of the two free trade agreements of the late 1980s and early 1990s and the SPP mechanism of 2005, but also of the political and economic implications of those agreements. While these integrative agreements have created considerable regionalisation in North America, there has been little of the regionalism evident in other parts of the world. We examine the contradictions of North America integration in order to explain why North Americans have been so open to regionalisation but so resistant to regionalism.

Footnotes

* We would like to thank the Australian Research Council and the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada for making this research possible, and Michael Barkun, Stephen Clarkson, David Haglund, Andrew Hurrell, Laura Macdonald, Robert Pastor, the anonymous referees and the editor, Rick Fawn, for helpful suggestions and criticisms.