The Internet and technological advances in telecommunications link trade partners across the globe.
Yet, this does not mean that trade barriers are non-existent. While the World Trade Organization (WTO)
promotes global multilateral free trade, regional trade blocks provide their members with the mechanisms for
competing in an aggressive global market.
Regardless of the size of your business, it is essential to know the international trade regulations that govern
your import and/or export operations. This article provides a brief description of each trade block – date
established, list of members, goals, population, and GDP (PPP). Links are provided for more detailed
information of trade agreements and tariffs.
In general terms, regional trade blocks are associations of nations at a governmental level to promote trade
within the block and defend its members against global competition. Defense against global competition is
obtained through established tariffs on goods produced by member states, import quotas, government subsidies,
onerous bureaucratic import processes, and technical and other non-tariff barriers.
Since trade is not an isolated activity, member states within regional blocks also cooperate in economic, political,
security, climatic, and other issues affecting the region.
In terms of their size and trade value, there are four major trade blocks and a larger number of blocks of regional
The four major regional trade blocks are, as follows:
ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) Updated 22 Jan 2014
Established on August 8, 1967, in Bangkok/Thailand.
Member States: Brunei Darussalam, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar,
Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam.
For a map of the region, click here.
Goals: (1) Accelerate economic growth, social progress and cultural development in the region and (2) Promote
regional peace and stability and adhere to United Nations Charter.
Important Indicators for 2012: Population 616.6 million; GDP US$3.751 trillion; and Total Trade US$2.474 trillion.
(Figures as at 21 October 2013, ASEAN Website.)
ASEAN Economic Community (AEC): Learn more about ASEAN Leaders' vision to transform ASEAN into a
single market and production base that is highly competitive and fully integrated into the global ecomony by 2015.
News: For ASEAN statements and communiques, click here.
Calendar of Official Meetings 2014
EU (European Union) Updated 22 Jan 2014
Founded in 1951 by six neighboring states as the European Coal and Steel Community (ECSC).
Over time evolved into the European Economic Community, then the European Community and,
in 1992, was finally transformed into the European Union.
Regional block with the largest number of members states (28). These include Austria, Belgium,
Bulgaria, Croatia (2013), Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France,
Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Poland, Portugal, Romania,
Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, The Netherlands, and the United Kingdom.
For a map of the Union, click here.
Goals: Evolved from a regional free-trade association of states into a union of political, economic and executive
Population estimated at 505.7 million (January 2013 est., Eurostat).
GDP (PPP) estimated at US$15.54 trillion (2012 est., CIA World Factbook 7 January 2014).
Check Out: Directory of European Union Legislation for treaties, international agreements, legislation in
force and other related issues.
For up-to-date trade news: Visit EurActiv – an independent media portal fully dedicated to EU affairs.
EU-US Free Trade Alliance: For updates on negotiations of the Transatlantic Trade and Investment
Partnership (TTIP) between the EU and the USA, see EU-US trade talks: moving forward?
MERCOSUR (Mercado Comun del Cono Sul - Southern Cone Common Market)
Official site is available only in Spanish and Portuguese. Updated 23 Jan 2014
Established on 26 March 1991 with the Treaty of Assunción.
Full members include Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay, Uruguay, and Venezuela. Boliivia is
undergoing process of becoming a full member. Associate members include Chile,
Colombia, Ecuador, Guyana, Peru, and Suriname. Associate members have access to
preferential trade but not to tariff benefits of full members. Mexico, interested in becoming a member of the
region, has an observer status.
For a map of the region, click here.
Goals: Integration of member states for acceleration of sustained economic development based on social
justice, environmental protection, and combating poverty.
Population: More than 282 million people (July 2013 est., CIA World Factbook)
GDP (PPP) of more than US$3.471 trillion (2011 est., World Economic Outlook Database, IMF, April 2012).
News: Visit MercoPress – an independent news agency operating from Montevideo, Uruguay, the
administrative headquarters of Mercosur, that focuses on news from member states.
NAFTA (North American Free Trade Agreement) Updated 27 Jan 2014
Agreement signed on 1 January 1994.
Members: Canada, Mexico, and the United States of America.
Click here for map of the region.
Goals: Eliminate trade barriers among member states, promote conditions for free trade,
increase investment opportunities, and protect intellectual property rights.
Population of over 469.8 million (July 2013 est., The CIA Factbook, 14 January 2014).
GDP (PPP) US$17.8 trillion (July 2012 est., The CIA Factbook, 5 February 2013).
Check Out: Legal texts [https://www.nafta-sec-alena.org/Default.aspx?tabid=87&language=en-US]
Agreement, Rules of Procedures, Code of Conduct, and Procedural Forms.
What's New? [https://www.nafta-sec-alena.org/Default.aspx?tabid=92&language=en-US]
Publication of recent decisions made.
Benefits for US companies and export procedures.
Other regional trade blocks, regional economic partnerships and free trade associations
include the following:
ANDEAN (Andean Community Countries) – Bolivia, Colombia, Ecuador, and Peru.
Associate Members: Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Paraguay, and Uruguay.
Observer Countries: Mexico and Panama.
BSEC (Organization of the Black Sea Economic Cooperation) – Albania, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Bulgaria,
Georgia, Hellenic Republic, Moldova, Romania, Russian Federation, Serbia, Turkey, and Ukraine.
CARICOM (Caribbean Community) – Antigua & Barbuda, The Bahamas, Barbados, Belize, Dominica,
Grenada, Guyana, Haiti, Jamaica, Montserrat, Saint Kitts & Nevis, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent & The Grenadines,
Surinam, and Trinidad & Tobago.
Check out: Caribbean Community (CARICOM) - Very Useful Websites for Trade and Investment.
CIS (Commonwealth of Independent States)
Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyz, Moldova, Russia, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Ukraine, and
For statistics and other information (in English), visit the Interstate Statistical Committee of the CIS.
COMESA (Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa)
Burundi, Comoros, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Djibouti, Egypt, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Kenya, Libya,
Madagascar, Malawi, Mauritius, Rwanda, Seychelles, Sudan, Swaziland, Uganda, Zambia, Zimbabwe.
ECOWAS (Economic Community of West African States)
Benin, Burkina Faso, Cape Verde, The Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Guinea Bissau, Ivory Coast, Liberia, Mali,
Niger, Nigeria, Senegal, Sierra Leone, and Togo.
Eurasian Economic Union Added 29 May 2014
Economic and trade treaty signed on 29 May 2014 between Russia and its ex-Soviet neighbors, Kazakhstan
and Belarus. If approved by the parliament of each member state, the new economic union will enter into force
on 1 January 2015.
EFTA (European Free Trade Association) – Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway, and Switzerland.
GAFTA (Greater Arab Free Trade Area) - Algeria, Bahrain, Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Libya,
Morocco, Oman, Palestine, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Syria, Tunisia, United Arab Emirates (UAE), and Yemen.
(Website not found. See latest news.)
GCC (Gulf Cooperation Council for the Arab States of the Gulf) – Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi
Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates (UAE).
MEFTA (Middle East Free Trade Area)
Countries which have signed Free Trade Agreements (FTAs), Trade and Investment Framework Agreements
(TIFAs), or receive active U.S. support for WTO accession include Algeria, Bahrain, Egypt, Iraq, Israel, Jordan,
Kuwait, Lebanon, Morocco, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Tunisia, United Arab Emirates, and Yemen.
Pacific Community – comprised of the 22 Pacific island countries and territories of American Samoa, Cook
Islands, Fiji Islands, French Polynesia, Guam, Kiribati, Marshall Islands, Micronesia, Nauru, New Caledonia,
Niue, Northern Mariana Islands, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Pitcairn Islands, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tokelau,
Tonga, Tuvalu, Vanuatu, Wallis and Futuna, and the founding countries of Australia, France, New Zealand and
the United States of America.
SAARC (South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation)
Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka.
SADC (Southern Africa Development Community)
Angola, Botswana, Democratic Republic of Congo, Lesotho, Madagascar, Malawi, Mauritius, Mozambique,
Namibia, Seychelles, South Africa, Swaziland, Tanzania, Zambia, and Zimbabwe.
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