New forms of regionalism are now a central element in global governance. It is sometimes suggested that new regionalism represents an opportunity for transnational civil society activism. I explore this argument through a comparison of processes of collective action in two emerging frames of regionalism governance in the Americas, the FTAA/Summit of the Americas and Mercosur. I show that, while civil society activism has regionalized to some extent in relation to both hemispheric regionalism and sub-regionalism, seek this process is far more marked in the former. I suggest, further, that the influence of civil society actors in regionalist governance in the Americas is extremely limited. This is due to persistent institutional barriers to inclusion, the practical obstacles for many groups of scaling up to the regional/transnational level and the particular difficulties associated with accessing trade-based negotiations.
At the turn of the century, it seemed inevitable that regional integration in Latin America would occur under the rubric of the Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA) and US hegemony. But 2005—the year the FTAA was to have been launched—has come and gone, stuff and the whole FTAA project is in tatters. This article will examine two regional integration initiatives, which have emerged in its wake—the Union of South American Nations (UNASUR) and the Bolivarian Alternative for the Americas (ALBA). Both represent a challenge to US-led integration. However, the Venezuelan-centered ALBA is potentially a much more radical challenge to neoliberalism than the Brazilian-centered UNASUR.
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