Entrepreneurship, knowledge and employment

The Hemispheric Customs Union Issue, Past and Present

Meardon Stephen, Texas A&M International University and Bowdoin College

The notion of a Western hemispheric customs union has waxed and waned over the past two centuries, reemerging most recently in then-candidate Donald Trump’s 2016 campaign for the U.S. presidency. The most striking comparison is to the initiative of 1889-90, when U.S. Secretary of State James G. Blaine, an avowed protectionist, convened an International Conference of American States in Washington, DC, with high-level ministers from the several nations of the hemisphere. In order to foster U.S. exports, especially of manufactures, while protecting the same from mainly British competition, he put consideration of a hemispheric customs union on the conference agenda. The paper studies the emergence of the project and the economic thinking of Secretary Blaine, Mexican Minister Romero and Mexican President Porfirio Díaz in negotiating it with one another and their hemispheric peers. Evidence drawn from the Archivo Histórico of the Banco de México, Acervo Histórico of the Secretaría de Relaciones Exteriores of Mexico, and the U.S. National Archives also helps to show the political and doctrinal reasons for the project’s failure and the consequences.


Keywords: Customs union; Pan-Americanism; Blaine, James G.; Romero, Matías

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