Robert Zoellick may have retired to the private sector, but he is still proposing new regional trade mechanisms (and acronyms!):

This year President Bush and the Democratic-led Congress should launch a new Association of American Free Trade Agreements (AAFTA). The AAFTA could shape the future of the Western Hemisphere, while offering a new foreign and economic policy design that combines trade, open societies, development and democracy. In concert with successful immigration reform, the AAFTA would signal to the Americas that, despite the trials of war and Asia’s rising economic influence, U.S. global strategy must have a hemispheric foundation…

Starting with a small secretariat, perhaps in Miami, the AAFTA should advance hemispheric economic integration; link development and democracy with trade and aid; improve working and environmental conditions; and continue to pursue the goal of free trade throughout the hemisphere. It might even foster cooperation in the WTO’s global trade negotiations. The AAFTA might be connected to an academic center, which could combine research and practice through an association among universities in the Americas…

Just as Alexander Hamilton created a self-reinforcing financial system that vitalized America to deal with future challenges, the AAFTA would create a working, adaptable mechanism that would strengthen the Americas in the 21st century.

I’ve read the piece twice and still don’t know what this “working, adaptable mechanism” would actually do. The majority of the suggestions have already been tried, and I don’t think that fringe benefits like helping businesses negotiate rules of origin and “opportunit[ies] to design labor and environmental partnerships” constitute “a new foreign and economic policy design that combines trade, open societies, development and democracy.” Hemispheric trade talks are dead now, and AAFTA looks more like a botched anagram than an FTAA-saver.

[HT: Drezner]