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The Neoliberalization of Development: Trade Capacity Building and Security at the US Agency for International Development

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This paper examines recent changes at the US Agency for International Development (USAID) regarding the connections between trade liberalization, development, and security. USAID has adopted “trade capacity building” as a framework for development, and, in conjunction with new US national security discourses, now operates under the assumption that underdevelopment is a source of state weakness that produces insecurity. I argue that these changes in how USAID understands and undertakes development constitute the neoliberalization of development. In accordance with these shifts, USAID has redefined critical aspects of its development mission, undergone internal restructuring, and altered its relationship with other US state institutions and capital. The actual prospects for achieving security or development are slim, however, as the agency remains wedded to definitions of both that suggest the only acceptable role for the state lies in facilitating further neoliberalization and promoting the stability of capitalist class relations. An overview of USAID's historical development, and a closer examination of the place of food aid and food security in the agency's development work, demonstrate this.

Keywords: US Agency for International Development (USAID); development; neoliberalization; security; trade liberalization

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: Department of Political Science, University of Windsor, Windsor, Ontario, Canada;, Email:

Publication date: 2008-03-01

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