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Is Regionalism an Increasing Feature of the World Economy?

  • Richard Pomfret

Measuring the importance of regionalism in international trade is desirable but difficult. The number of regional trade agreements (RTAs) reported to the WTO or the proportion of world trade which is between countries in a RTA are frequently cited as evidence that regionalism is growing at an accelerating rate. This paper questions whether RTAs really are as important as the headline numbers suggest, or whether they just occupy an excessively large part of policymakers' and economic journalists' time. The main contributions are to analyse the number of RTAs and the share of world trade criteria in order to show why both are meaningless measures of the extent of regionalism in the current world economy. The impact of RTAs on world trade is difficult to assess because some of the most important RTAs go beyond trade to deep integration measures, while a large number of RTAs are either not implemented or have very limited coverage. The tendency towards extreme outcomes (ie. economic union or negligible economic effects) explains why, despite the apparent proliferation of RTAs, regionalism has not posed a serious challenge to the world economy as the multilateral trading system has over the last sixty years gone from strength to strength.

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Paper provided by IIIS in its series The Institute for International Integration Studies Discussion Paper Series with number iiisdp164.

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Date of creation: 02 Aug 2006
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Handle: RePEc:iis:dispap:iiisdp164
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  1. Dennis, Allen, 2006. "The impact of regional trade agreements and trade facilitation in the Middle East and North Africa region," Policy Research Working Paper Series 3837, The World Bank.
  2. Richard Pomfret, 2005. "Regional Trade Agreements," School of Economics Working Papers 2005-15, University of Adelaide, School of Economics.
  3. Pomfret, Richard, 2005. "Sequencing trade and monetary integration: issues and application to Asia," Journal of Asian Economics, Elsevier, vol. 16(1), pages 105-124, February.
  4. repec:spo:wpecon:info:hdl:2441/8131 is not listed on IDEAS
  5. Tubagus Feridhanusetyawan, 2005. "Preferential Trade Agreements in the Asia-Pacific Region," IMF Working Papers 05/149, International Monetary Fund.
  6. Schiff, Maurice & Winters, L Alan, 1998. "Dynamics and Politics in Regional Integration Arrangements: An Introduction," World Bank Economic Review, World Bank Group, vol. 12(2), pages 177-95, May.
  7. Crawford, Jo-Ann & Fiorentino, Roberto V., 2005. "The changing landscape of regional trade agreements," WTO Discussion Papers 8, World Trade Organization (WTO), Economic Research and Statistics Division.
  8. Pomfret, Richard, 1985. "Discrimination in International Trade: Extent, Motivation and Implications - La discriminazione nell’ambito del commercio internazionale: estensione, motivi e implicazioni," Economia Internazionale / International Economics, Camera di Commercio di Genova, vol. 38(1), pages 49-65.
  9. Linda Low, 2004. "A Comparative Evaluation and Prognosis of Asia Pacific Bilateral and Regional Trade Arrangements," Asian-Pacific Economic Literature, Asia Pacific School of Economics and Government, The Australian National University, vol. 18(1), pages 1-11, 05.
  10. GAULIER, Guillaume & LEMOINE, Francoise & UNAL-KESENCI, Deniz, 2007. "China's emergence and the reorganisation of trade flows in Asia," China Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 18(3), pages 209-243.
  11. Patrick Messerlin, 2005. "The Directive on Services: Rent Seekers Strike Back," Sciences Po publications info:hdl:2441/8131, Sciences Po.
  12. Baysan, Tercan & Panagariya, Arvind & Pitigala, Nihal, 2006. "Preferential trading in South Asia," Policy Research Working Paper Series 3813, The World Bank.
  13. Richard Pomfret, 1986. "The Trade-Diverting Bias of Preferential Trading Arrangements," Journal of Common Market Studies, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 25(2), pages 109-117, December.
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