Free trade agreements in Latin America since 1990: an evaluation of export diversification
This article explores the previously uncontested claim that the free trade agreements (FTAs) signed by Latin American countries -the cornerstone of their international economic integration strategies since 1990- have led to export diversification in terms of variety of goods and number of trading partners. Using data from the United Nations Commodity Trade Statistics Database (COMTRADE), we show that the bulk of export growth in the region has been in the intensive rather than the extensive margin. Concentration indices support the finding that the expansion of exports into new products and new trading partners has been limited. Latin America's bid to diversify its exports using FTAs (based on a static concept of comparative advantages) instead of more comprehensive strategies has had a negligible impact. Governments should therefore adopt a more dynamic approach to comparative advantages and introduce more active policies. Finally, we pose some open questions for future research.