Trade bloc

A trade bloc is a type of intergovernmental agreement, often part of a regional intergovernmental organization, where barriers to trade (tariffs and others) are reduced or eliminated among the participating states.

Trade blocs can be stand-alone agreements between several states (such as the North American Free Trade Agreement) or part of a regional organization (such as the European Union). Depending on the level of economic integration, trade blocs can be classified as preferential trading areas, free-trade areas, customs unions, common markets, or economic and monetary unions.[1]

Lists of trade blocs


Stages of economic integration around the World (each country colored according to the most integrated form that it participates with):
  Economic and monetary union (CSME/EC$, EU/, Switzerland–Liechtenstein/CHF)
  Common market (EEA–Switzerland)

Historic trading blocs include the Hanseatic League, a Northern European economic alliance between the 12th and 17th centuries, and the German Customs Union, formed on the basis of the German Confederation and subsequently the German Empire from 1871. Surges of trade bloc formation occurred in the 1960s and 1970s, as well as in the 1990s after the collapse of Communism. By 1997, more than 50% of all world commerce was conducted within regional trade blocs.[2] Economist Jeffrey J. Schott of the Peterson Institute for International Economics notes that members of successful trade blocs usually share four common traits: similar levels of per capita GNP, geographic proximity, similar or compatible trading regimes, and political commitment to regional organization.[3]

Some advocates of global free trade are opposed to trading blocs. Trade blocs are seen by them to encourage regional free trade at the expense of global free trade.[4] Those who advocate for it claim that global free trade is in the interest of every country, as it would create more opportunities to turn local resources into goods and services that are both currently in demand and will be in demand in the future by consumers.[5] However, scholars and economists continue to debate whether regional trade blocs fragment the global economy or encourage the extension of the existing global multilateral trading system.[6][7]


A common market is seen as a stage of economic integration towards an economic union[8] or possibly towards the goal of a unified market.

A single market is a type of trade bloc in which most trade barriers (for goods) have been removed


Selection of GDP PPP data (top 10 countries and blocs) in no particular order
Trade bloc Population Gross domestic product (USD) Members
2006 2007 growth per capita
Economic and monetary unions
EMU 324,879,19510,685,946,928,31012,225,304,229,68614.41%37,630
OECS 593,9053,752,679,5623,998,281,7316.54%6,732
OII 504,47612,264,278,32914,165,953,20015.51%28,081
CCCM 6,418,41739,616,485,62343,967,600,76510.98%6,850
EEA 499,620,52114,924,076,504,59217,186,876,431,70915.16%34,400
Customs and monetary unions
CEMAC 39,278,64551,265,460,68558,519,380,75514.15%1,490
UEMOA 90,299,94550,395,629,49458,453,871,28315.99%647
Customs unions
CAN 96,924,486281,269,141,372334,172,968,64818.81%3,448
EAC 127,107,83849,882,030,44361,345,180,04122.98%483
EUCU 574,602,74515,331,827,900,20217,679,376,474,71915.31%30,768
GCC 36,154,528724,460,151,595802,641,302,47710.79%22,200
MERCOSUR 271,304,9461,517,510,000,0001,886,817,000,00012.44%9,757
SACU 58,000,0001,499,811,549,1871,848,337,158,28123.24%6,885
Preferential trade areas and Free trade areas
AANZFTA-ASEAN+3 2,085,858,84110,216,029,899,76411,323,947,181,80410.84%5,429
ALADI 499,807,6622,823,198,095,1313,292,088,771,48016.61%6,587
AFTZ 553,915,405643,541,709,413739,927,625,27314.98%1,336
APTA 2,714,464,0274,868,614,302,7445,828,692,637,76419.72%2,147
CARIFORUM-EUCU-OCTs 592,083,95015,437,771,092,52217,798,283,524,96115.29%30,060
CACM 37,388,06387,209,524,88997,718,800,79412.05%2,614
CEFTA 27,968,711110,263,802,023135,404,501,03122.80%4,841
CISFTA 272,897,8341,271,909,586,0181,661,429,920,72130.62%6,088
DR-CAFTA-US 356,964,47713,345,469,865,03714,008,686,684,0894.97%39,244
ECOWAS 283,096,250215,999,071,943255,784,634,12818.42%904
EFTA-SACU 68,199,9911,021,509,931,9181,139,385,636,88811.54%16,707
EAEC 207,033,9901,125,634,333,1171,465,256,182,49830.17%7,077
USMCA 449,227,67215,337,094,304,21816,189,097,801,3185.56%36,038
TPP 25,639,622401,810,366,865468,101,167,29416.50%18,257
SAARC 1,567,187,3731,162,684,650,5441,428,392,756,31222.85%911
SPARTECA 35,079,659918,557,785,0311,102,745,750,17220.05%31,435
Pacific Alliance 218,649,1151,371,197,216,1401,525,825,175,04511.28%6,978
This list is based on the data obtained from  United Nations Statistics Division.

Comparison between regional trade blocs

Regional blocFree Trade AreaEconomic and monetary unionFree TravelPolitical pactDefence pactOther
Customs UnionSingle MarketCurrency UnionVisa-freeBorder-less
EU in force in force7 in force2 in force 1 in force in force
(Schengen 1, 7, NPU and CTA 1)
in force in force
ESA 1, 7
EFTA in force in force2, 7 in force in force 1, 7 in force 1, 7 ESA 1, 7
CARICOM in force in force in force 1 in force 1 and
proposed common
in force 1 proposed proposed NWFZ
AU ECOWAS in force 1, 3 in force 1 proposed[9][10] in force 1 and
proposed for 2012 1 and
proposed common
in force 1 proposed proposed in force NWFZ1
ECCAS in force1 African Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA)1 in force1 proposed in force1 in force in force NWFZ1
EAC in force in force proposed for 2020s proposed for 2024 proposed  ? proposed for 2023 NWFZ1
SADC in force1 in force1 proposed for 2015 de facto in force 1 and proposed common for 2016 proposed[11] NWFZ1
COMESA in force1 proposed for 2010  ? proposed for 2018 NWFZ1
Common in force1 proposed for 2019 proposed for 2023 proposed for 2028 proposed for 2028 NWFZ1
Pacific Alliance in force in force NWFZ
USAN MERCOSUR in force in force proposed for 2015[12] in force proposed for 2014[13] NWFZ
CAN in force in force 1 proposed1[14] in force NWFZ
Common proposed for 2014 4 proposed for not after 2019 proposed for 2019 proposed for 2019 in force[15] proposed for 2019 proposed in force NWFZ
EEU in force in force1 in force Proposed[16] in force[17] in force 1
AL GCC in force in force[18] proposed proposed 1 in force in force
Common in force1 proposed for 2015 proposed for 2020 proposed proposed[19]
ASEAN in force 5 proposed for 2015[20] proposed 8[21] in force[22] proposed for 2015[23] proposed for 2020[24] NWFZ
CAIS in force1 proposed  ? in force1 in force1 proposed NWFZ
CEFTA in force RCC7
USMCA in force in force 1, 7
SAARC in force 1, 6 proposed proposed in force9
PIF proposed for 20211 NWFZ1

1 not all members participating
2 involving goods, services, telecommunications, transport (full liberalisation of railways from 2012), energy (full liberalisation from 2007)
3 telecommunications, transport and energy - proposed
4 sensitive goods to be covered from 2019
5 least developed members to join from 2012
6 least developed members to join from 2017
7 Additionally some non member states also participate (the European Union, EFTA have overlapping membership and various common initiatives regarding the European integration).
8 Additionally some non member states also participate (ASEAN Plus Three)
9 Limited to "entitled persons" and duration of one year.

See also


  1. Mansfield and Milner 2005, 333.
  2. Milner 2002, 450.
  3. Schott 1991, 2.
  4. O'Loughlin and Anselin 1996, 136.
  5. Lal, Deepak (1993). "Trade Blocs and Multilateral Free Trade" (PDF). Journal of Common Market Studies. 31 (3): 349–358. doi:10.1111/j.1468-5965.1993.tb00468.x.
  6. Milner 2002, 458.
  7. Mansfield and Milner 2005, 330.
  8. "Stages of Economic Integration: From Autarky to Economic Union".
  9. "WT/COMTD/N/11". Archived from the original on 2009-03-25.
  10. "WT/COMTD/N/21". Archived from the original on 2009-03-27.
  11. "Prensa Latina". Prensa Latina. February 3, 2007. Archived from the original on September 27, 2007.
  12. "WT/REG238/M/1". Archived from the original on 2009-03-04.
  13. "Definidos critérios para o Parlamento do Mercosul". Senado Federal – Notícias. February 3, 2007.
  14. Twelfth Andean Presidential Council Act of Lima Archived 2010-07-07 at the Wayback Machine
  15. "?". CNN. February 3, 2007. [dead link]
  16. "Russia, Kazakhstan, Belarus form Eurasian Economic Union". Washington Post. May 29, 2014. Retrieved June 1, 2014.
  17. Archived September 30, 2007, at the Wayback Machine
  18. "GCC customs union fully operational". The Peninsula. 2016-08-13. Archived from the original on 18 January 2015. Retrieved 11 January 2015.
  19. Yemen Proposes Replacing Arab League With Arab Union, Agence France-Presse, 11 February 2004
  20. "Asean Trade Mins Meet To Speed Up Plans For Single Market". Malaysia Dual Lingual Business News. February 3, 2007. Archived from the original on 2007-09-28.
  21. "Envisioning a single Asian currency". International Herald Tribune. February 3, 2007.
  22. "ASEAN To Sign Accord On Visa-Free Travel". AHN – All Headline News. February 3, 2007. Archived from the original on 2007-09-26.
  23. "ASEAN Leaders Sign Five Agreements at the 12th ASEAN Summit, Cebu, the Philippines, 13 January 2007" (Press release). ASEAN Secretariat. 2007-01-13. Archived from the original on 2012-03-16. Retrieved 2007-01-28. On the first day of the 12th ASEAN Summit, five Agreements have been signed by ASEAN leaders – reinforcing their commitment in the continuing integration of ASEAN and enhancing political, economic and social cooperation in the region.
  24. "ASEAN defense ministers aim for security community". ABS-CBN. February 3, 2007. Archived from the original on June 27, 2006.


  • Mansfield, Edward D. and Helen V. Milner, "The New Wave of Regionalism" in Diehl, Paul F. (2005). The Politics of Global Governance: International Organizations in an Interdependent World. Boulder: Lynne Rienner Publishers. ISBN 978-1-55587-654-8.
  • Milner, Helen V., "International Trade" in Carlsnaes, Walter; Thomas Risse; Beth A. Simmons (2002). Handbook of International Relations. London: SAGE Publications. ISBN 978-0-7619-6304-2.
  • O'Loughlin, John; Luc Anselin (1996). "Geo-Economic Competition and Trade Bloc Formation: United States, German, and Japanese Exports, 1968-1992". Economic Geography. 72 (2): 131–160. doi:10.2307/144263. JSTOR 144263.
  • Schott, Jeffrey J. (1991). "Trading blocs and the world trading system". World Economy. 14 (1): 1–17. doi:10.1111/j.1467-9701.1991.tb00748.x.