Power Multiplied or Power Restrained? the United States and Multilateral Institutions in the Americas
The central argument is that US power, once established as predominant in the hemisphere, has been nothing short of decisive in the founding, nature, and functioning of the regional multilateral institutions/organizations in the Americas in which it has taken part. The examples of the Pan American Union (PAU) Organization of American States (OAS) and of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) are used to show this state of affairs in play; the most attention is paid to the OAS because of the lessons that can be derived from the very long history of US membership of this organization. In another case, that of Mercado Comun del Sur (Mercosur, or the Common Market of the South), it is shown how, even where the US is not a member of a multilateral organization in the hemisphere, its weight is still felt in terms of the aims and behaviour of that body. At the same time, it is seen that such organizations may on occasion be useful for the smaller states in restraining to at least some extent US behaviour, although in general such a restraining role is reserved for moments when US vital interests tend not to be involved and where Latin American, or more recently Canadian, actions to limit US unilateralism do not negatively affect goals perceived to be key by Washington. The first section gives an overview of the US and the hemisphere over the more than two centuries of its diplomatic and related action therein, the next looks at the specific experience of the PAU and the OAS, and the following two at NAFTA and Mercosur.
Keywords: Americas, behaviour, history, Mercado Comun del Sur, Mercosur, multilateral institutions, multilateral organizations, NAFTA, North American Free Trade Agreement, OAS, Organization of American States, Pan American Union, PAU, power, regional organizations, unilateralism, US, US unilateralism
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