Regional economic co‐operation, global markets and domestic politics: A comparison of NAFTA and the Maastricht Treaty

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Global economic interdependence has created incentives for greater international economic co‐operation. In many instances, these incentives have led states to accept important and controversial co‐operative agreements, despite their costs. A crucial form of contemporary international economic policy co‐operation is the development of regional patterns of economic integration, exemplified by the NAFTA accord and the Maastricht Treaty on European Monetary Union (EMU). Why did countries choose to co‐operate in NAFTA and the EMU, especially given the costs? This question is addressed in three parts. First, why did political leaders initiate these negotiations? Given the costs of such far‐reaching accords, why were leaders interested in pursuing them? The second issue is why were the countries able to reach agreement? A number of factors, such as the end of the Cold War and the economic difficulties experienced by the advanced industrial countries after 1987, could have undermined such co‐operation. Finally, what made domestic ratification possible? Political leaders who negotiated NAFTA and EMU had to obtain domestic approval from their legislatures or electorates. Ratification proved to be a problem in both agreements. The answers to these questions lie in the intersection of domestic and international politics. International economic co‐operation results from the calculations of political leaders, whose first priority is getting re‐elected, and is constrained by the need for domestic ratification of any agreement negotiated. These domestic factors are, however, linked to international ones. The political calculations of leaders about initiation and ratification depend on the extent of international economic ties that a country possesses. Heightened economic openness meant that leaders had to seek joint solutions to their economic problems in order to survive politically. Co‐operation is inextricably linked to the electoral calculus of political leaders.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)337-360
Number of pages24
JournalJournal of European Public Policy
Issue number3
StatePublished - Sep 1995
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Public Administration


  • Co-operation
  • Emu
  • Interdependence
  • Nafta
  • Ratification
  • Regionalism


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