Asymmetries and cooperation in the Free Trade Area of the Americas
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Abstract The prospective Free Trade Agreement of the Americas seeks to link the countries of Latin America and the Caribbean (with the exception of Cuba); with Canada and the United States, thereby forming the largest free trade area in the world. Given the huge asymmetries in the size and level of development of participating countries, the major challenge in this ambitious and complex process will be to ensure that all countries, especially the smallest and least developed ones, benefit from trade liberalization within the hemisphere. This study argues that whether FTAA translates into benefits for its members will depend largely on how these asymmetries are addressed. In particular, countries will need to conserve margins of flexibility in fostering productive development in order to increase their competitiveness and manage their capital accounts as instruments of macroeconomic regulation. According to the study, new and ambitious initiatives, such as the creation of cohesion or integration funds, and an increase in the international mobility of labour will also be necessary in order to achieve convergence in the levels of development of participating countries.