Handbooks of Research on International Political Economy series
Edited by David Deese
Chapter 10: Regionalism’s past, present, and future
Over the past two decades, regionalism in international trade has increasingly drawn the attention of policy makers and economists, quite often for very different reasons. Both economists and policy makers have long worried about the implications of regionalism for postwar multilateral order anchored by the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT), renamed the World Trade Organization (WTO) in 1994. Yet economists and policy makers have slightly different sets of concerns where regionalism is concerned. Economists view regionalism with skepticism because of its corrosive effects on the efficiency and growth trade liberalization can bring. Policy makers are concerned with regionalism because of the many geopolitical ramifications attendant on the patchwork of economic preferences regionalism creates. Over the past two decades, both groups have worried about the ways in which regionalism has contributed to a series of phenomena that are increasingly difficult to reconcile with overall economic openness and liberal global trading. All of this helps explain why trade, and regionalism specifically, is the quintessential international political economy (IPE) topic pitting the efficiency models of economists against the political imperatives of those implementing policy. Much of the contemporary debate about regionalism has treated it as though it was a recent and worrisome phenomenon, as well as an outlier in the history of international trade.
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