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Returns to Regionalism: An Evaluation of Non-Traditional Gains from RTAs

  • Raquel Fernandez

The last decade has witnessed an explosion in the number of regional trade agreements (RTAs). There seems to be a general if ill-defined belief on the part of many policy-makers, and among a number of academics as well, that there is more to a RTA than the traditional gains from trade. This paper examines several possible benefits that RTAs may confer to their partners, including credibility, signaling, bargaining power, insurance, and coordination. It assesses the necessary conditions for each of these candidates to work; gives stylized examples of specific types of policy where it might be applicable; examines real cases where the explanation might be relevant; and discusses their overall plausibility. It concludes by examining NAFTA and the Europe Agreements viewed in this light.

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Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 5970.

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Date of creation: Mar 1997
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Publication status: published as (With J. Portes) World Bank Economic Review, Vol. 12, no. 2 (1998): 197-220.
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:5970
Note: ITI
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  1. Ethier, Wilfred, 1996. "Regionalism in a multilateral world," Discussion Papers, Series II 314, University of Konstanz, Collaborative Research Centre (SFB) 178 "Internationalization of the Economy".
  2. Hamilton, C.B. & Winters, L.A., 1992. "Opening Up International Trade in Eastern Europe," Papers 511, Stockholm - International Economic Studies.
  3. Giovanni Maggi & Andres Rodriguez-Clare, 1998. "The Value of Trade Agreements in the Presence of Political Pressures," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 106(3), pages 574-601, June.
  4. Schiff, Maurice & Winters, L Alan, 1998. "Regional Integration as Diplomacy," World Bank Economic Review, World Bank Group, vol. 12(2), pages 271-95, May.
  5. Wilfred J. Ethier, 1998. "Regionalism in a Multilateral World," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 106(6), pages 1214-1245, December.
  6. Staiger, Robert W & Tabellini, Guido, 1987. "Discretionary Trade Policy and Excessive Protection," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 77(5), pages 823-37, December.
  7. John Whalley, 1998. "Why Do Countries Seek Regional Trade Agreements?," NBER Chapters, in: The Regionalization of the World Economy, pages 63-90 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  8. Kyle Bagwell & Robert W. Staiger, 1997. "Regionalism and Multilateral Tariff Cooperation," NBER Working Papers 5921, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  9. David M. Gould, 1992. "Free trade agreements and the credibility of trade reforms," Economic and Financial Policy Review, Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas, issue Q I, pages 17-27.
  10. Kydland, Finn E & Prescott, Edward C, 1977. "Rules Rather Than Discretion: The Inconsistency of Optimal Plans," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 85(3), pages 473-91, June.
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