Trading blocs are groups of countries that agree to increase trade between themselves. Agreements include accessible trade areas, customs unions, economic unions, and common markets.
Free trade policies promote economic development by driving down the costs of goods, increasing competition, and spurring economic expansion. They also reduce international isolation while improving governance and the state of law.
The European Union
The European Union (EU) is one of the world’s largest trading blocs, accounting for 16% of global import and export transactions. Its trade policy aims to promote open international trade while encouraging European businesses to export goods and services abroad while simultaneously working towards eliminating barriers to employment through bilateral and multilateral trade agreements.
Trading blocs are agreements among countries to reduce or remove trade barriers between themselves, such as tariffs, quotas, or any other restrictions on trade. One notable achievement of the European Union’s trading bloc membership is its internal single market that facilitates the free movement of goods and services between national borders within its bounds. Furthermore, it promotes monetary integration by creating the European Central Bank to set its monetary policy.
Established by people who had experienced both world wars, which devastated Europe and killed millions, the European Union was created to unite the continent and build a peaceful and prosperous future for its people. From three European Communities, it has since expanded into 28 member states with their own foreign and security policy, single currency, and economic and monetary union.
Trade policy within the EU seeks to promote growth and job creation by opening up global trade and encouraging European exports, including manufactured goods and services. It is one of the leading exporters and most significant markets for over 80 other nations; tariff rates are low while negotiations on trade agreements that grant mutually beneficial access are encouraged.
The EU is dedicated to making global trade fair and open, serving as an influential force in setting international standards. Furthermore, they engage in various regional economic integration projects which seek to strengthen associations with countries that share similar values while simultaneously negotiating accession treaties with newcomers who meet Copenhagen criteria.
The Pacific Alliance
The Pacific Alliance comprises Latin American nations that promote trade and economic integration through trade agreements and joint efforts toward building a global trading bloc and sharing resources. Progress has been made towards this end through eliminating tariffs, developing a customs system designed to foster regional integration, and the creation of a business council that promotes cooperation between businesses within its member states and the governments of their member countries.
The goals of the Alliance include free trade across borders, increased participation in global value chains, and competitiveness improvements. To meet these objectives, cooperation among members must increase while work on financing, agribusiness, and small and medium enterprises is further pursued – this will give the Pacific Alliance more significant economic influence worldwide.
The Pacific Alliance has established various working groups dedicated to specific issues to bolster its efforts. In 2014, for instance, they formed a technical group dedicated to identifying possible areas of regional integration. Furthermore, they have collaborated with Mercosur on bilateral negotiations on trade facilitation and support for small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs).
As well as strengthening its trade policies, the Alliance is expanding its market reach by opening diplomatic missions worldwide. There are currently seven Pacific Alliance diplomatic offices worldwide; another will open shortly in Mumbai, India; furthermore, efforts are being undertaken to open an office in China.
Though the Pacific Alliance has made great strides in trade liberalization, its member countries’ share of the global export market remains modest. Still, financial integration progress is being made. Its regional stock exchange and rules are now designed to give pension funds easier access to Alliance markets.
Progress has been made, but the Pacific Alliance has yet to find widespread acceptance within its region. Its technocratic nature contrasts sharply with more political anti-American schemes like Unasur, created by Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez and Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva’s regime in Brazil; more conservative members have criticized Pacific Alliance as having a “naive desire for trade openness” while prioritizing markets over people.
Trading blocs allow countries to compete more effectively in the global marketplace than they could. One such bloc is Mercosur in South America. Comprised of four member nations–Brazil, Argentina, Paraguay, and Uruguay–it provides lower prices and greater access to global markets than would otherwise exist independently.
While creating a trade bloc has many advantages, it poses its challenges. Balancing the economic and political interests of different countries may prove challenging; moreover, individual country stability could impede the overall health of the bloc if left unchecked. But these challenges can be surmounted with help from experts.
Though trade blocs may present challenges, their benefits often outweigh any costs. With Pacific Alliance’s establishment in 2021 came the hope that Mercosur would enjoy more tremendous success; however, recent political instability in Brazil and Argentina dimmed this optimism.
Mercosur faces another significant test of its staying power as Latin America’s premier trade bloc, even though economic growth among its members has outshone that of non-members since 2008. Although their collective economic expansion exceeds that of non-members, its rate remains significantly less than before the 2008 financial crisis.
Another issue raised is the need to adapt the organization’s rules in light of today’s economy and trade patterns, especially given China’s rising power and Uruguay’s proposal to sign a free-trade agreement with Beijing.
Mercosur can address its challenges by modifying its rules and structures, enabling it to continue as a trading bloc while permitting individual Mercosur members to negotiate separate trade agreements with other nations. This flexibility will serve Mercosur well when competing against trade blocs like Pacific Alliance or European Union.
The Asian Development Bank
Since 1966, the Asian Development Bank (ADB) has provided projects with significant economic and development impact. Their work primarily centers on stimulating economic growth, creating quality infrastructure development projects, and advancing regional cooperation and integration (RCI). Furthermore, ADB works intraregional to expand trade so its member countries may benefit from economies of scale and reduced costs.
The ADB boasts multiple departments dedicated to various sectors and themes, each led by knowledgeable and expert staff tasked with carrying out directions from management. As the Asia-Pacific region’s most significant development finance institution (with commitments of $21.6 billion in 2018), its rivals, such as AIIB, have significantly smaller obligations.
ADB’s primary policymaking body is its Board of Governors, composed of one representative for each member country. For administrative and operational functions, ADB relies upon its Executive Board, comprised of nineteen people elected by its Board.
The ADB is owned by its 68 members, 49 from Asia-Pacific regions being members. The two largest shareholders of ADB are the United States and Japan; its primary purpose is promoting sustainable and equitable economic development while alleviating poverty and protecting the environment; it works towards decreasing fossil fuel dependence while encouraging renewable energy sources as part of this goal.
In addition to lending activities, the ADB also provides advisory services and conducts research. All its activities are guided by Strategy 2030, which sets forth its priorities and directions through 2025.
ADB is dedicated to working with nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), with a dedicated unit providing grants and technical assistance to them. Furthermore, ADB actively encourages its participation in its project planning and delivery to ensure vulnerable populations’ needs are considered during project design and implementation. Finally, ADB builds upon NGO partnerships for more excellent impactful projects like its annual Asia Clean Energy Forum (ACEF).