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Trade Blocs, Trade Flows, and International Conflict


  • Mansfield, Edward D.
  • Pevehouse, Jon C.


The relationship between foreign trade and political conflict has been a persistent source of controversy among scholars of international relations. Existing empirical studies of this topic have focused on the effects of trade flows on conflict, but they have largely ignored the institutional context in which trade is conducted. In this article we present some initial quantitative results pertaining to the influence on military disputes of preferential trading arrangements (PTAs), a broad class of commercial institutions that includes free trade areas, common markets, and customs unions. We argue that parties to the same PTA are less prone to disputes than other states and that hostilities between PTA members are less likely to occur as trade flows rise between them. Moreover, we maintain that heightened commerce is more likely to inhibit conflict between states that belong to the same preferential grouping than between states that do not. Our results accord with this argument. Based on an analysis of the period since World War II, we find that trade flows have relatively little effect on the likelihood of disputes between states that do not participate in the same PTA. Within PTAs, however, there is a strong, inverse relationship between commerce and conflict. Parties to such an arrangement are less likely to engage in hostilities than other states, and the likelihood of a military dispute dips markedly as trade increases between them.

Suggested Citation

  • Mansfield, Edward D. & Pevehouse, Jon C., 2000. "Trade Blocs, Trade Flows, and International Conflict," International Organization, Cambridge University Press, vol. 54(04), pages 775-808, September.
  • Handle: RePEc:cup:intorg:v:54:y:2000:i:04:p:775-808_44

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    Cited by:

    1. Baldwin, Richard & Jaimovich, Dany, 2012. "Are Free Trade Agreements contagious?," Journal of International Economics, Elsevier, vol. 88(1), pages 1-16.
    2. Martin, Philippe & Mayer, Thierry & Thoenig, Mathias, 2010. "The geography of conflicts and free trade agreements," CEPR Discussion Papers 7740, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
    3. Reuven Glick & Alan M. Taylor, 2010. "Collateral Damage: Trade Disruption and the Economic Impact of War," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 92(1), pages 102-127, February.
    4. Rahman, Ahmed S., 2010. "Fighting the forces of gravity - Seapower and maritime trade between the 18th and 20th centuries," Explorations in Economic History, Elsevier, vol. 47(1), pages 28-48, January.
    5. repec:spo:wpecon:info:hdl:2441/c8dmi8nm4pdjkuc9g8m2hh491 is not listed on IDEAS
    6. Francesco Amodio & Leonardo Baccini & Michele di Maio, "undated". "Security, Trade, and Political Violence," HiCN Working Papers 250, Households in Conflict Network.
    7. Philippe Martin & Thierry Mayer & Mathias Thoenig, 2012. "The Geography of Conflicts and Regional Trade Agreements," American Economic Journal: Macroeconomics, American Economic Association, vol. 4(4), pages 1-35, October.
    8. Vincenzo Bove & Leandro Elia & Petros G. Sekeris, 2014. "US Security Strategy and the Gains from Bilateral Trade," Review of International Economics, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 22(5), pages 863-885, November.
    9. Raul Caruso, 2015. "Beyond deterrence and decline. Towards a general understanding of peace economics," Rivista Internazionale di Scienze Sociali, Vita e Pensiero, Pubblicazioni dell'Universita' Cattolica del Sacro Cuore, vol. 128(1), pages 57-74.
    10. Vicard, Vincent, 2012. "Trade, conflict, and political integration: Explaining the heterogeneity of regional trade agreements," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 56(1), pages 54-71.
    11. Hadjiyiannis, Costas & Heracleous, Maria S. & Tabakis, Chrysostomos, 2016. "Regionalism and conflict: Peace creation and peace diversion," Journal of International Economics, Elsevier, vol. 102(C), pages 141-159.
    12. Aaronson Susan Ariel & Abouharb M. Rodwan & Daniel Wang K., 2015. "The Liberal Illusion Is Not a Complete Delusion: The WTO Helps Member States Keep the Peace Only When It Increases Trade," Global Economy Journal, De Gruyter, vol. 15(4), pages 455-484, December.
    13. Asif Efrat, 2016. "Promoting trade through private law: Explaining international legal harmonization," The Review of International Organizations, Springer, vol. 11(3), pages 311-336, September.
    14. Andreas Dür & Leonardo Baccini & Manfred Elsig, 2014. "The design of international trade agreements: Introducing a new dataset," The Review of International Organizations, Springer, vol. 9(3), pages 353-375, September.
    15. Scott Helfstein, 2012. "Liabilities of Globalization: Sovereign Debt, International Investors and Interstate Conflict with Other People's Money," International Finance, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 15(3), pages 277-288, December.
    16. Yoram Haftel, 2013. "Commerce and institutions: Trade, scope, and the design of regional economic organizations," The Review of International Organizations, Springer, vol. 8(3), pages 389-414, September.
    17. Goertz, Gary & Powers, Kathy, 2014. "Regional governance: The evolution of a new institutional form," Discussion Papers, Research Unit: Global Governance SP IV 2014-106, Social Science Research Center Berlin (WZB).
    18. Enrico Bertacchini & Claudia Liuzza & Lynn Meskell & Donatella Saccone, 2016. "The politicization of UNESCO World Heritage decision making," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 167(1), pages 95-129, April.

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