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Latin American Politics & Society 46.2 (2004) 167-172

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Peter Andreas and Thomas J. Biersteker, eds.The Rebordering of North America: Integration and Exclusion in a New Security Context. New York: Routledge, 2003. Bibliography, index, 179 pp.; hardcover $75, paperback $19.95.

The terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, and the measures taken to improve internal security in the United States led to fears in Canada, Mexico, the North American business community, and Latin America that this might be the end of U.S. efforts at regional integration. It suddenly seemed that safeguarding the United States from future terrorist attacks was incompatible with facilitating flows of people and goods across its borders. This prospect threatened the economy of every country in the region; particularly NAFTA partners Canada and Mexico, but also the other Latin American countries counting on a future free trade area of the Americas (FTAA). Many observers perceived the FTAA as one of the few hopes for improving the dismal economic conditions in most Latin American countries. Even in the United States, companies that had come to depend on open borders were threatened by the prospect of hardened borders; as Stephen E. Flynn notes in this volume, the initial response to the terrorist attacks amounted to the United States "imposing an embargo on itself."

This timely volume, edited by two professors at Brown University, is not only the first to address the impact of the September 11 attacks on North American regional integration and border relations; it also stands out because it shows how border security and the open borders required for regional economic integration can be compatible. It includes eight chapters by specialists on North American border issues from all three of the NAFTA member countries.

While many of the chapters accept the apparent inverse relationship between the two initiatives (regional integration and border security), Flynn's very provocative chapter boldly suggests that regional integration is not only compatible with border security, but that the two goals are self-reinforcing. Open borders not only protect U.S. economic security interests but also can help minimize security threats, while closed borders increase criminal activity at the border as well as the potential for terrorist threats. The key, as Biersteker states in his conclusion, is to conceive of borders less in terms of territorial demarcations and more as places where transnationally networked threats must be countered through similarly networked defense strategies with many remote components. [End Page 167] Using sophisticated technology, regional security cooperation, and the cooperation of industries that rely on open borders, techniques can be developed effectively to protect the United States from penetration by a terrorist threat while also allowing the free flow of goods and people. This is perhaps the book's most important contribution: to show that a post-9/11 world does not have to mean the end of regional integration efforts, including a potential FTAA. Instead, it may be an opportunity to accelerate integration as a way of promoting the economic and security interests of the United States and the overlapping interests of its North American neighbors.

One of the book's other major themes is the role of leadership and domestic politics in Canada and Mexico as they contend with the consequences of U.S. preponderance in the NAFTA relationship. The authors emphasize the sacrifices the weaker NAFTA partners must make to keep borders open, a priority their economies depend on much more than does the United States, given the realities of asymmetric interdependence.

The authors also make policy prescriptions and explore future trade-security scenarios, ranging from "Fortress America," in which the United States effectively closes its borders, to the "Europeanization" of North American relations, a model that implies the emergence of a "region-state" with regional institutions. Despite some common themes, it is difficult to summarize the chapters in clusters, as each is unique. Still, the contributors are fairly evenly divided among optimists and skeptics regarding the prospects for regional integration. The selections by Athanasios Hristoulas, Gary Hufbauer and Gustavo Vega-Cánovas...


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pp. 167-172
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Archived 2007
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