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Importance of Trade Blocks for International Marketing

Advantages

Increased foreign direct investment: An increase in foreign direct investment may result from the creation of trade blocs. This can benefit the economies of participating nations by creating jobs in new or expanded businesses.

Economies of scale: The larger markets created by trade blocs permit companies to take advantage of economies of scale. Since the average cost of each good produced tends to fall as production increases, this results in lower prices for consumers.

Competition: Trade blocs force the manufacturers in participating countries to compete with each other. Increased competition creates pressures for greater efficiency within firms, which results in lower prices for consumers. Home producers have to work with greater efficiency to ensure survival of their goods against the low price imported goods since tariffs are removed. Overseas producers tend to increase their production of goods as they realize that the low price goods that they produce have a better chance of competing with home-produced goods in the market.

Trade Effects: Trade blocs eliminate tariffs, which drives down the cost of imports. As a result, consumers can save money by buying imported goods when cheaper than locally produced ones—they can then spend those savings on other goods. Reducing the cost of imports also reduces the cost of locally produced goods that use imported parts or components.

Improved Market Efficiency: Increased competition and the removal of tariffs, which may act as a price floor, drive down prices and allow for increased consumption. This reduces deadweight loss and hence improves market efficiency.

Disadvantages

Regionalism vs. Multinationalism: Trading blocs inherently favor their participating countries. For example, among NAFTA partners, the United States, Canada and Mexico, trade has risen to more than 80 percent of Mexican and Canadian trade and more than a third of U.S. trade, according to a 2009 report by the Council on Foreign Relations. However, regional economies establish tariffs and quotas that protect intra-regional trade from outside forces, according to the University of California Atlas of Global Inequality. Rather than pursuing a global trading regime within the World Trade Organization, which includes the majority of the world’s countries, regional trade bloc countries contribute to regionalism rather than global integration.

Loss of Sovereignty: A trading bloc, particularly when it is coupled with a political goal, is likely to lead to at least partial loss of sovereignty for its participants. For example, the European Union, started as a trading bloc in 1957 by the Treaty of Rome, has transformed itself into a far-reaching political organization that deals not only with trade matters, but also with human rights, consumer protection, greenhouse gas emissions and other issues which are only marginally related.

Concessions: No country wants to let foreign firms gain domestic market share at the expense of local companies without getting something in return. Any country that wants to join a trading bloc must be prepared to make concessions. For example, in trading blocs that involve developed and developing countries, such as bilateral agreements between the U.S. or the EU and relatively poor Asian, Latin American or African countries, the latter may have to allow multinational corporations to enter their home markets, hurting the business of some local firms.

Interdependence: Because trading blocs increase trade among participating countries, those countries become increasingly dependent on each other. A disruption of trade within a trading bloc as a result of a natural disaster, conflict or revolution may have severe consequences for the economies of all participating countries.

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