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Traditional comparative advantage vs. increasing returns to scale: NAFTA and the GATT


  • Chichilnisky, Graciela


Regional free trade zones have been unexpectedly successful in the last decade. Since 1980 the European Community enlarged significantly its membership and its scope. It now includes southern European countries, and market-integrating features allowing goods, people, services and capital to flow freely around an area accounting for about one fourth of world economic output. Based on economies of scale - we find a condition that determine whether trading blocks Such as NAFTA and the EU are complementary with and encourage global free trade - when this condition fails, instead, trading blocks undermine free trade. It is the purpose of this paper to re-examine the positive and negative aspects of trading blocs as they relate to gains from free trade. The paper is primarily a discussion of conceptual issues, although it is based on facts and on particular cases which are of interest to the trade liberalization in the Americas. We take a somewhat different approach to a familiar issue. Rather than asking the standard question of whether regional blocs help or hinder global free trade, we ask a more detailed question: what type of customs union is likely to lead to a trade war between the blocs, and what type of customs union is, instead, likely to lead to expanded global trade. In practical terms: what type of trade policies within the blocs will provide economic incentives for expanding free trade. We shall compare the impact on the world economy of free trade blocs which are organized around two alternative principles: one is traditional comparative advantages, the other is economies of scale. The aim is to determine how the patterns of trade inside the blocs determine the trade relations among the blocs.

Suggested Citation

  • Chichilnisky, Graciela, 1994. "Traditional comparative advantage vs. increasing returns to scale: NAFTA and the GATT," MPRA Paper 8360, University Library of Munich, Germany.
  • Handle: RePEc:pra:mprapa:8360

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Chichilnisky, Graciela, 1993. "North-South trade and the dynamics of renewable resources," Structural Change and Economic Dynamics, Elsevier, vol. 4(2), pages 219-248, December.
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    Cited by:

    1. Chichilnisky, Graciela, 1993. "The abatement of carbon emissions in industrial and developing countries," MPRA Paper 8390, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    2. Chichilnisky, Graciela, 1996. "Property rights and the dynamics of North-South trade, chapter 8," MPRA Paper 8514, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    3. Chichilnisky, Graciela & Gallopin, G., 2000. "The environmental impact of globalization on Latin America: a prospective approach," MPRA Paper 8440, University Library of Munich, Germany.

    More about this item


    trading blocs; free trade; trade wars; international trade; international policy; comparative advantage; economies of scale; patterns of trade; GATT; NAFTA; EC; trade diversion; resources; emissions; protectionism; returns to scale; interdependence; global environment;

    JEL classification:

    • F18 - International Economics - - Trade - - - Trade and Environment
    • F12 - International Economics - - Trade - - - Models of Trade with Imperfect Competition and Scale Economies; Fragmentation
    • O19 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Development - - - International Linkages to Development; Role of International Organizations


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