The alba-tcp: Looking with Keen Eyes
Christopher David Absell

Larry Catá Backer and Augusto Molino observed that the institutional ambiguity of the ALBA-TCP was a deliberate attempt to bypass the supra-national design of other schemes of integration in order to maintain state sovereign rights. In this way, no autonomy was lost and the State remained the key actor: “Supra national interaction must be controlled by the State, serve the interests of the State, and focus on public policy” (Backer et al., 2009: 157). This idea is the foundation for the “grannacional” concept: political and economic integration that forgoes the formation of supra-national institutions in favor of the maintenance of State sovereignty. Mohsen Al Attar and Rosalie Miller argued that such deliberate subversion of traditional schemes of integration was partly the result of the process of decolonization in the region. Due to the long fought struggle for national autonomy and self-determination, these countries are wary of the delegation of decision-making to supra-national authorities, especially those operated by ex-colonial powers. The ALBA-TCP, however, is a new form of integration which “...finds a method of reasserting Third World sovereignty without eschewing the multilateral collaboration needed to advance collective social welfare” (Al Attar et al., 2010: 355). The authors observed that whereas some supra-national regimes encourage integration by way of competition (an example being the European Union's mutual recognition model), the ALBA-TCP “...promotes harmony, reconstituting state-to-state relationships from competition and self-interest to complementarity and mutual advantage” (Ibid.: 356). The emergence and development of the ALBA-TCP, as José Briceño Ruiz y Rosalba Linares argued, highlights the necessity to “...rethink existing sub-regional agreements...” such as the CAN, the Common Southern Market (MERCOSUR) and the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), in order to redefine the process of integration and “ overcome the obstacles and weaknesses that, for some, the negotiation of the FTAA represents...” (Ruiz et al., 2004: 38, 39).


To gain an understanding of the nature of the literature on the ALBA-TCP, it is useful to divide it into four critical analysis categories: a) works which present a non-critical analysis, b) works that contain minor critical analysis, c) works which present substantial critical analysis, and d) works that present empirical support for their critical content. As can be seen in Figure 1, the majority of the literature on the ALBA-TCP surveyed here falls into the first two categories and, due to a lack of empirical support, is largely characterized by an ideological bias derived from its reliance on official (primary) sources.

Figure 1: Percentage share of critical analysis categories in literature on the ALBA-TCP