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Trade liberalization and regional integration: the search for large numbers

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  • Robinson, Sherman
  • Thierfelder, Karen

Abstract

The debate over the impact of regional trade agreements (RTAs) on world welfare hinges upon (1) whether they are net trade creating or trade diverting and (2) whether they impede multilateral trade liberalization. Theoretical models are ambiguous on these issues. We summarize the insights from the vast body of empirical literature on multi-country CGE models which analyze RTAs. The empirical models overwhelmingly show that aggregate trade creation dominates trade diversion. Indeed, in many cases, there is no absolute aggregate trade diversion from an RTA. The models also indicate that welfare for all members — both current and potential — increases when RTAs expand. There are even bigger welfare gains when models incorporate aspects of “new trade theory” such as increasing returns, imperfect competition, technology transfers, trade externalities, and dynamic effects such as links between trade liberalization, total factor productivity growth, and capital stock accumulation. We broaden the search for large numbers by suggesting an additional gain from RTAs. We conjecture that increases in intra-sectoral trade arise from the fact that an RTA provides an expanded secure market, and permits firms to pursue economies of fine specialization. This Smithian specialization in production is another source of efficiency gains.

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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) in its series TMD discussion papers with number 34.

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Date of creation: 1999
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Handle: RePEc:fpr:tmddps:34

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Keywords: Trade liberalization Econometric models.; Trade policy Econometric models.; Regional economics.; Welfare economics.;

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  1. Brown, D.K., 1992. "The Impact of a North American Free Trade Area: Applied General Equilibrium Models," Working Papers 311, Research Seminar in International Economics, University of Michigan.
  2. Ronald W. Jones, 2000. "Globalization and the Theory of Input Trade," MIT Press Books, The MIT Press, edition 1, volume 1, number 026210086x.
  3. Robert Scollay & John Gilbert, 2000. "Measuring the Gains from APEC Trade Liberalisation: An Overview of CGE Assessments," The World Economy, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 23(2), pages 175-197, 02.
  4. Brown, Drusilla K. & Deardorff, Alan V. & Stern, Robert M., 1996. "Computational Analysis of the Economic Effects of an East Asian Preferential Trading Bloc," Journal of the Japanese and International Economies, Elsevier, vol. 10(1), pages 37-70, March.
  5. Wonnacott, Ronald J, 1996. "Free-Trade Agreements: For Better or Worse?," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 86(2), pages 62-66, May.
  6. Brown, D.K. & Deardoff, A.V. & Stern, R.M., 1995. "Expanding NAFTA: Economic Effects of Accession of Chile and Other Major South American Nations," Working Papers 376, Research Seminar in International Economics, University of Michigan.
  7. de Melo, Jaime & Panagariya, Arvind & Rodrik, Dani, 1992. "The New Regionalism: A Country Perspective," CEPR Discussion Papers 715, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  8. Brown, D.K. & Deardorff, A.V. & Stern, R.M., 1991. "A North American Free Trade Agreement: Analytical Issues and A Computational Assessment," Working Papers 289, Research Seminar in International Economics, University of Michigan.
  9. Grubel, Herbert G & Lloyd, P J, 1971. "The Empirical Measurement of Intra- Industry Trade," The Economic Record, The Economic Society of Australia, vol. 47(120), pages 494-517, December.
  10. Joyce Manchester & Warwick Mckibbin, 1995. "The global macroeconomics of NAFTA," Open Economies Review, Springer, vol. 6(3), pages 203-223, July.
  11. Frankel, Jeffrey & Stein, Ernesto & Wei, Shang-jin, 1995. "Trading blocs and the Americas: The natural, the unnatural, and the super-natural," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 47(1), pages 61-95, June.
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