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La economía política del ingreso de México al TLC


  • Tornell, Aarón

    (Universidad de Harvard)

  • Esquivel, Gerardo

    (National Bureau of Economic Research)


In this paper, we derive three lessons from Mexico’s experience. First, deep reforms like trade liberalization are not likely to happen by government decree. Instead, they usually come about when the unanimous blocking of reform by powerful elites breaks down. In the case of Mexico, this happened during a fiscal crisis, when some groups tried to displace other groups in order to capture a greater share of fiscal revenue. Second, in the presence of entrenched elites, the sustainability of reform depends on the existence of new groups that benefit from the new status quo and have enough power to defend it. Thus, the speed of successful reform is determined by the speed with which new groups are consolidated. Initially, Mexico limited radical liberalization to the manufacturing sector. The government has only recently begun to undertake serious liberalization in the services and agriculture sectors. The third lesson we take from Mexico is that the importance of formal agreements like NAFTA lies not so much in the ability of these agreements to reduce average important tariffs among their parties and improve their terms of trade vis á vis the rest of the world, as claimed by the optimal tariff literature, but in that they serve as commitment devices to force reforms to continue.// En este ensayo obtenemos tres lecciones de la experiencia de México. Primero, no es probable que se realicen reformas profundas como la liberación económica por un mero decreto gubernamental. Por lo contrario, tales reformas suelen ocurrir cuando se derrumba el bloqueo unánime de la reforma por parte de élites poderosas. En el caso de México, esto ocurrió durante una crisis fiscal, cuando algunos grupos intentaron desplazar a otros a fin de captar una porción mayor de la recaudación fiscal. Segundo, cuando hay élites arraigadas, la permanecía de la reforma depende de la existencia de nuevos grupos que se beneficien del nuevo status quo con poder suficiente para defenderlo. Por lo tanto, la celeridad de la reforma exitosa se determina con la rapidez con la que se consoliden grupos nuevos. Al principio, México limitó la liberación radical al sector manufacturero. Sólo recientemente el gobierno ha empezado a emprender en serio la liberación en los sectores de servicios y agricultura. La tercera lección que obtenemos es que la importancia de los acuerdos formales como el TLC no reside tanto en la capacidad de estos convenios para reducir los aranceles promedios entre sus partes y mejorar sus términos de intercambio frente al resto del mundo, como sostiene la bibliografía del arancel óptimo, sino en el hecho de que sirven como instrumentos de compromiso para impulsar la continuación de las reformas.

Suggested Citation

  • Tornell, Aarón & Esquivel, Gerardo, 1998. "La economía política del ingreso de México al TLC," El Trimestre Económico, Fondo de Cultura Económica, vol. 0(259), pages 427-468, : julio-s.
  • Handle: RePEc:elt:journl:v:65:y:1998:i:259:p:427-468

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