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Trade and economic growth : a Latin American perspective on rhetoric and reality

Author: Juan Carlos Moreno-Brid; Esteban Pérez Caldentey; United Nations. Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean. Subsede en México.
Publisher: México, D.F. : Naciones Unidas, CEPAL, 2009.
Series: Serie Estudios y perspectivas (Mexico), 119.
Edition/Format:   Print book : International government publication : EnglishView all editions and formats
Summary:
There is a longstanding tradition of analyzing trade and growth in economics, going back to the discipline's founders. But for Latin America, the debate on the significance of this relationship has had much more than academic relevance. It has been one of the central components of the different approaches to development that have shaped the region's economic history, the other (closely related) component being the  Read more...
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Material Type: Government publication, International government publication, Internet resource
Document Type: Book, Internet Resource
All Authors / Contributors: Juan Carlos Moreno-Brid; Esteban Pérez Caldentey; United Nations. Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean. Subsede en México.
ISBN: 9789211217339 9211217334
OCLC Number: 643606557
Notes: "December 2009."
"Sales no. E.09. II. G.151"--Title page verso.
Description: 47 pages : illustrations ; 28 cm.
Contents: Introduction --
The Latin American rhetoric on trade and growth: part I --
The Latin American rhetoric on trade and growth: part II --
The Latin American rhetoric on trade and growth: part III --
The Latin American rhetoric on trade and growth: part IV --
Conclusions.
Series Title: Serie Estudios y perspectivas (Mexico), 119.
Responsibility: Juan Carlos Moreno Brid, Esteban Pérez Caldentey.

Abstract:

There is a longstanding tradition of analyzing trade and growth in economics, going back to the discipline's founders. But for Latin America, the debate on the significance of this relationship has had much more than academic relevance. It has been one of the central components of the different approaches to development that have shaped the region's economic history, the other (closely related) component being the roles of the State and of the market in economic development. In Latin America, the dominant understanding of the relationship between trade and growth has evolved radically over time. Starting from the position that foreign trade should be managed with the objective of promoting industrialization and domestic development, around the mid 1980s it changed to an opposing view based on the notion that free trade and privatization are the fundamental guarantors of sustainable economic growth. In the last ten years, however, the consensus view has shifted again, to a more critical, skeptical view of the benefits of trade as an automatic and dynamic engine of economic growth. More precisely, analysis of the trade-growth relationship in Latin America since World War II has passed through various stages. The first, which lasted until the early 1960s, was associated with the dominance of the Structuralist school of economic thought. It was marked by a rejection of free trade policies, an emphasis on primary commodity exports and inward, state-led industrialization. In the second stage, which lasted from 1960 to the mid-70's, the policies associated with "structuralism" were called into question. But many professional economists remained committed to state led industrialization while also recognizing the role of manufacturing exports in promoting growth. The third and fourth stages were characterized by the dominance of orthodox economists and the unconditional support within the economics profession for free trade and free market policies. Finally the fifth stage, associated with the erosion of the Washington Consensus, reflects the end of the region's fascination with free trade as an unequivocal and strong promoter of development. It has its roots, on the one hand, in Latin America's failed quest to enter a path of high and sustained economic expansion after the drastic elimination of trade protection implemented across the continent since the mid 1980s. On the other hand, it is also rooted in the fact that the resumption of high rates of economic expansion in many countries of the region in the last five years has resulted mainly from the worldwide commodity and mineral boom -- a boom whose cause and effects have nothing to do with the adoption of the trade liberalization reforms in the region. The approaches to the relationship between trade and growth described above were embedded in particular rhetorics meant to persuade and win converts to their causes1. The terms "center-periphery", "dependency", "external strangulation" and "secular decline in the terms-of-trade" were introduced and became integral parts of the development literature in the region during the inward industrialization stage. The expressions "import-substitution industrialization" (ISI), "export oriented industrialization" (EOI) and "rent-seeking behavior" were widely used thereafter, especially in the third stage. As we will see, in spite of their theoretical difference, the rhetoric of the alternative approaches to trade and growth that have prevailed in Latin America shared a common feature. Each emphasized the allegedly dynamic, growth oriented character of their own interpretation of the determinants of growth and underscored their close correspondence to the Latin American reality. Opposing theoretical perspectives and their implicit economic policies were portrayed as flawed, based on an incorrect or unrealistic identification of the determinants of growth, and even as inapplicable to the Latin American case. This paper analyses the different approaches to trade and growth in Latin America from the end of WWII to the present day. Specifically, it examines the underlying rhetoric of these alternative approaches and the extent to which their rhetorics matched their understanding of Latin American reality. It is shown that throughout the period under study, the relationship between trade and growth was far from robust. In other words, the region has been unable to make exports the lynchpin of rapid long-run growth. Addressing this failure is one of the most urgent tasks confronting Latin America, and one which has received insufficient attention.

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