Although there is increasing divergence among thetrade policies of various Latin American nations, overall the last twenty years have seen a dramatic shift away from protectionism towards liberalization. Focusing on case studies of four Latin American nations — Brazil, Mexico, Chile and Argentina — the author uses an analytical framework to explain the rationales behind divergent policies. The analytical approach used considers the combination of economic, political and strategic objectives of policymakers in each country. Four governance modes of trade are used to categorize and describe the trade policies of each country: Unilateralism, bilateralism, minilateralism (limited multilateralism, as in regional trade accords like Mercosur), and broader multilateralism (virtually unlimited membership arrangements like WTO). While the four countries share similar levels of economic and social development and have all moved towards trade liberalization, their trade preferences vary substantially and reflect not only economic orientations but also the political and security aims of each. The article ends by posing several questions for further exploration.
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