The alba-tcp: Looking with Keen Eyes1
Christopher David Absell*
Date submitted: February 14, 2011. Date accepted: September 27, 2011.

The emergence of the Boliviarian Alliance for the Peoples of Our America-Peoples Trade Agreement (ALBA-TCP) represents an important regional and international political development, yet to date scholarly work on this subject has been scarce and characterized by a descriptive methodological approach which lacks comprehensive empirical research. Here I argue that such a methodological approach has imbued the literature with a positive bias in favor of the ALBA-TCP and its development projects. The aim of this article is to dissect this work in order to determine a research agenda for the future study of the ALBA-TCP.

Keywords:Boliviarian Alliance for the Peoples of Our America-Peoples Trade Agreement (ALBA-TCP); Latin America; economic integration; research agenda; literature review

The emergence of the ALBA-TCP represents an important regional and international development. Since its creation in 2004, the ALBA-TCP has changed political dynamics in Latin America. It has called into question many of the pre-existing regional strategies for economic integration and cooperation by prioritizing social inclusion and economic equity over the mere synchronization of economic policy. Furthermore, the complex and contradictory nature of the ALBA-TCPs development has forced us to rethink pre-existing theories of cooperation and integration.

While the ALBA-TCP and its developement projects have developed quite rapidly during the short years since its creation, scholarly work examining this subject has not. Available literature on the ALBA-TCP is largely descriptive in nature, reliant upon primary source document analysis and lacking empirical investigation. It is my contention that this methodological approach has produced a perspective which views the ALBA-TCP through rose-colored glasses; in other words, while remaining critical, it views the emergence of the institution as a positive development for the peoples of Latin America, the Caribbean and the world. The objective of this article is to examine existing literature concerning the ALBA-TCP in order to develop a research agenda which will focus attention on those areas needing further investigation. By expanding our knowledge on ALBA-TCP development projects, it is hoped that these rose-colored glasses can be discarded in favor of an evidence-based perspective of pre-existing hypotheses. In the first section, I provide a brief historical review of the ALBA-TCP and its institutional characteristics. The second section addresses the nature of existing literature on the ALBA-TCP and explores the range of definitions offered by authors to date and the principal criticisms of the organization. In conclusion, I will expand upon my argumentation and suggest a future research agenda on the ALBA-TCP.

1 The author thanks anonymous reviewers for their valuable contributions, Dr. Heloise Weber (Queensland University) for her comments and Clara Álvarez Ríos for her assistance with translation.

* Student in the Masters Program in International Relations and EU-LA Cooperation at the University Center on Economic and Administrative Science at the University of Guadalajara. E-mail: