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The Washington Quarterly 24.2 (2001) 139-148

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The Century of the Americas:
Dawn of a New Century Dynamic

Georges A. Fauriol and Sidney Weintraub

The Quebec City summit of democratically elected leaders of the Americas represents a significant marker if leaders--particularly those in Washington--capitalize on a unique set of opportunities. The meeting, at which progress toward the Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA) will be renewed, can potentially transform U.S. strategic priorities throughout the world. If U.S. policymakers wish to do so, they can highlight the salience of the Western Hemisphere in a manner that has not come naturally to most U.S. leaders in the post-World War II era.

President George W. Bush and his team are building on three overlapping policy anchors or, more accurately, are taking advantage of a unique set of circumstances facing the Americas in attempting to fulfill the notion of the "Century of the Americas." First is the concept that, beyond the North America Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), the United States has in fact a "special relationship" with Mexico that competes with the historical significance of U.S. ties with Europe, most notably Great Britain. Beyond simply being a treaty, NAFTA demonstrates that the Latin world is penetrating deeply into U.S. domestic political calculations, which alludes to a gradual transformation of NAFTA into a more deeply integrated community. The forces behind this trend are particularly strong at the subnational level where new opportunities are reshaping central government conceptions of foreign policy. Law enforcement cooperation, emergency response, and more integrated business communities are examples of this interstate integration. A twenty-first-century North American community under the dynamic leadership of the United States and Mexico can fast become an even more powerful model for the rest of the hemisphere than it was a decade earlier. [End Page 139]

The second anchor of the Century of the Americas is the existence of a political process for liberalized trade in the Western Hemisphere, formalized in 1994 with the Miami summit, continued four years later at the Santiago summit, and climaxing at the upcoming Quebec meeting. Much has been made of the existence since the early 1990s of a post-Cold War "Washington consensus" in support of common economic and political reforms in the Americas, but achieving this consensus was far from simple. Considering the tensions in governance and economic dislocations shared by the region as recently as the 1980s, it is remarkable in retrospect that trade liberalization has come so far. Yet, arguably the experience of the United States in the past decade has most dramatically shaped the opportunities the Americas now face collectively.

The Enterprise for the Americas Initiative (EAI) was proposed almost accidentally in 1990 by the previous Bush administration to the leaders of the hemisphere. At the time, it was little more than an open-ended concept of a hemispheric community. The initiative had an uncertain future until the triumph of the more subregional and substantive NAFTA. It is difficult to imagine how notions of hemispheric free trade could have been sustained politically without first testing its logic with immediate neighbors, but NAFTA's creation generated this U.S. national debate about closer relationships among American states. (The Canadians had undergone their own version of that debate in the late 1980s with NAFTA's precursor, the U.S.-Canada Free Trade Agreement.) The 1994 Miami summit codified negotiating procedures, culminating in a formal FTAA process. Thus far, this apparatus has laboriously addressed mostly technical trade and investment matters undergirding the FTAA. Its first negotiating harvests were adopted at the second summit in Chile in 1998 and now provide the bureaucratic underpinnings and political impetus for the Quebec City conclave. Showing foresight and much political fortitude, the FTAA process will be designed to be completed in 2005 with the two largest economies in the hemisphere--the United States and Brazil--presiding over the final stages of negotiations.

The third anchor for a Century of the Americas may in fact be more...


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