From unilateral liberalization to regional free trade agreements: a Latin America perspective

Research paper by Patricio Meller

Indexed on: 28 Oct '08Published on: 28 Oct '08Published in: Economic Change and Restructuring


This paper provides an overview of changes in Latin American trade regime. The inward-looking import substitution industrialization (ISI) approach to development was replaced in the 1990s by an outward-looking strategy. The protectionist policies of the ISI strategy generated an anti-export bias, but unilateral trade liberalization (UTL) reduced this bias considerably. An issue discussed is why the pro-ISI consensus of the 1960s was replaced by the pro-export consensus of the 1990s? There has been a surprising proliferation of (bilateral) free trade agreements (FTAs) during the 1990s. In the paper it is argued that UTL and FTAs are complementary strategies. Latin America has comparative advantages in natural resources. A new debate over the development strategy has emerged. Information and communication technologies (ICT) are seen as crucial to a country’s growth in the twenty-first century. So, how can Latin American countries incorporate such technologies into their economies. Is it possible to make the leap from producing natural resources to producing ICT? In today’s globalized world, it is essential for Latin American countries to increase its exports. This paper reviews actions on different fronts; some that should be carried at the domestic level, and also, measures at the external level which require that the developed countries provide better market access to Latin American exports.