The last decade of the twentieth century was marked by an acceleration of dynamic regional integration around the world. Regionalism was most often a strategic response to the intensification of international competition in an increasingly globalized economy. The American continent has seen a myriad of regional integration projects in various forms according to their geographical scope, their ideological orientation (neo-liberalism etc.), and their power relations (North-South). Also includes the degree of integration (sectoral agreement, common market, free trade area). In general, the “depth” of regional agreements, i.e. their binding nature and decision-making power of supranational institutions.
If this polymorphism/regionalism (s) in the Americas excludes any hasty conclusion on the costs and benefits of regional integration. It raises questions about the issues and the socio-economic conditions of these processes. Is regional economic integration limited mainly to the fusion of productive and financial spheres? What policy issues are considered priorities? What domains are formally or informally excluded from regionalist dynamics?
About the modalities of regionalism, it is to examine the structure and role of regional institutions. That constitutes the most tangible embodiment of political will given to an integration project. Thus, the force of application of a regional agreement, the functioning and real power of supranational bodies, or the budget allocated to a project are often indicative of the strength of the phenomena of integration. Similarly, the democratic nature of the decision-making process, and in particular the hierarchical structure and the participatory dimension of a project, often has a direct impact on its legitimacy, and so on its sustainability.
Beyond these institutional arrangements, regionalisms are also building off the beaten paths of diplomacy. Official integration is opposed to “real” integration which is based on migratory flows, commercial exchanges (licit and illicit) and investments. Convergences and divergences between these two forms of integration. Again, raise many issues related to democracy, development or security. What are the formal and informal dynamics that shape regionalism? Can we talk about different models of integration within the Americas that would synthesize the complex relationships between States, markets, regional institutions, and citizens?In the same way, that the “models of capitalism” helped to diagram economy Policy for example? From these modalities raise the economic and social consequences of regionalist policies. The result of the political capital invested by the architects of integration, or the unavoidable or unforeseen effects of the impelled processes.
This first issue of IDEASis to analyze the issues and socio-economic conditions of regional integration in the Americas. Through various regional experiences, including NAFTA, the free trade agreement between the United States and Central America (ALEC) or the Central American Integration System (SICA). This dossier brings together the works of North American and Latin American researchers. It offers a cross-examination of the intrinsic qualities of regionalism in the Americas. The goal is to establish a first socio-economic assessment of the last two decades of integration in the aftermath of the financial crisis that spread within the Western Hemisphere. It is directly linked to the growing interdependence of Economies of the continent. So, we propose a prospective analysis of the main challenges that future architects of regionalist policies will have to overcome.