Economic Integration in North America—An Agreement of Limited Dimensions but Unlimited Expectations

Publication Date01 March 1993
AuthorMichael Wallace Gordon
Date01 March 1993
Economic Integration in
Limited Dimensions but
Unlimited Expectations
Economic integration often is motivated less by economic interests than by social
and political movements and pressures. The European Economic Community was
founded on a blend of French ideas about addressing the ‘German problem,’ and
British notions of creating a United States of Europe, nevertheless excluding Britain.
Few observers doubted Germany’s separate capacity to regain economic strength
without economic integration. But in that strength lay the potential power to dominate,
and possibly rule, Europe. Creation of a European Community might achieve the
goal of ‘Never Again War,’ but it might be unable to avoid German economic
The proposed North American Free Trade Agreement also has an admixture of
economic, social and political goals
its basis. It is of course intended to assist
economic development, especially in less developed Mexico. But it is
to address the uncontrolled movement of millions of mostly unskilled, illegal Mexican
immigrants entering the United States.
the NAFTA diminishes the rate at which
Mexicans seek jobs in the United States, jobs which the restrictive Mexican economic
policies of the
and early
failed to create at home, the NAFTA might
achieve a goal of ‘Never Again Echeverria.’ President Luis Echevem’a
and his successor President
L6pez Portillo
moved Mexico towards
substantial state ownership of the means of production and distribution.’ This
‘mixed economy,’ as the Mexican government euphemistically called it, was
becoming increasingly. identified with the centrally controlled non-market economies
of Eastern Europe. Mexico bore little resemblance to the Asian market economies,
although it envied their economic growth and expressed disdain at the movement
of United States manufacturing to Asia rather than to Mexico.
This restrictive atmosphere and consequent immigration became the United States’
‘Mexican problem.’ Many persons in the United States believed that Mexican
participation in a free trade area might help to diminish or destroy the Mexican
mixed economy. But there has been no thought in the United States, parallel to
that in Europe regarding Germany, of any threat by Mexico as a potential economic
power with notions of domination. Mexico is viewed as a greater source of trouble
while it remains in a state of underdevelopment than were it to develop, while
Germany was viewed as a greater source of trouble in a state of development than
underdevelopment. Creation of the European Community might allow France and
perhaps the United Kingdom to contain a future threat of a Germany achieving
development, gaining power and intentionally extending that power abroad
detriment of its neighbours, while a NAFTA might allow the United States to diminish
*Professor of Law and Latin American Studies, University of Florida.
generally Riding,
Distant Neighbors
(New York: Alfred A.
1985); Pastor and Castaieda,
United States and Mexico
(New York: Vintage Books, Random House, 1989).
The Modern Law Review Limited 1993 (MLR 56:2, March). Published by Blackwell
Publishers, 108 Cowley Road, Oxford OX4 1JF and 238 Main Street, Cambridge,
MA 02142, USA.

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