Sub-National Movements and the Politicization of NAFTA and the EU

Publication Title

The Legitimacy of Regional Integration in Europe and the Americas

Document Type

Book Chapter - Open Access

Department or Program


Publication Date



European Union, Regional Integration, North American Free Trade Agreement, Mexican Government, Spanish State


Despite the growing interest among political scientists and sociologists in comparing regional trade agreements (RTAs), very few scholars have turned to the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and the European Union (EU) as cases worthy of joint investigation. This may be due to the assumption that the two RTAs are so different in design that little can be gained from comparing them. The assumption, it turns out, is not accurate (Sbragia 2008; Söderbaum and Sbragia 2010). For one, NAFTA and the EU are certainly different, but instructively so: They represent two important paradigms for regional integration: heavy reliance on mutual recognition and minimal institutional support as opposed to regulatory harmonization and significant bureaucratic machinery. As such, NAFTA and the EU have served as blueprints for many other RTAs and should therefore be analysed comparatively. Secondly, NAFTA and the EU may actually share certain important features. Both, for instance, promote — at least on paper — environmental protection and a certain degree of good governance (Richardson 1998). Both have encouraged some degree of regionalization in the administrative branches of their member states (Aspinwall 2009). And both represent highly legalized efforts to liberalize trade (Söderbaum and Sbragia 2010: 573).


Original version is available from the publisher at: https://doi.org/10.1057/9781137457004_11