Power Politics and the Free Trade Bandwagon
What explains the developing world's newfound enthusiasm for free trade? Are developing country leaders jumping on the NAFTA, EU, APEC, and WTO bandwagons in order to achieve Pareto-improving gains? Or might it simply be their desire not to be left behind while their neighbors "go it alone"? This paper suggests that in many cases -- and in direct opposition to the collective-action-based models of international cooperation we are accustomed to seeing in the IR literature -- it is the latter (defensive) motivation that has been driving much of the action. NAFTA, I argue, is a case in point: Without in any way being bullied or coerced, the Mexican and Canadian governments agreed to take part in a cooperative multilateral arrangement they genuinely, and intensely, disliked. Although hard to reconcile with conventional "positive-sum" theories of voluntary cooperation, this finding is perfectly consistent with the broader power-politics model I sketch out in the first part of the paper.
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