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Investigating the role of regionalism towards globalisation

Is regionalism best interpreted as contradictory to the logic of globalisation, or as an integral part of globalisation ?

Since 1990, end of the Cold War, the world is an ideological cease-fire, but it is still in search of paradigms to shape the new international order. We all tend to think in industrialized countries as well as in poor countries that further integrations of economies through increased interconnection and integration of markets would be ideal. Indeed, globalization is a phenomenon that calls to break boundaries and interdependence among peoples. Regarding the regional integration, it refers to a process of gathering together several distinct elements, in principle, but generally have common aspects with a view to strengthening their individual strengths. The question is either Regionalism poses a serious challenge to Globalisation or would Regionalism builds on Globalisation. The latter is a process that also announces the integration of the world in a new era of thought and actions, and as such, regional integration both in its objectives and forms, participates in this process. Thus regionalism is a decisive step to include in the globalization. We can distinguish two types of regionalism: one tries to resolve any issue amicably, to show consideration for individual needs, they agree on some basic rules to make life easier in overall, but they are also attached to their privacy. In terms of economic cooperation, this type of regionalism is essentially the removal of barriers. From that view, members remain free to pursue their own path of development, cooperating only on issues where they share the same perspective. The other is united by the desire of its members to share their lives, based on common values and views. States share the same political will to build a community and pooling their sovereignty. This type of regionalism tends to lead to the integration of different policies including the establishment of a common market, harmonizing standards and regulations.

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The first argument is that regional integration covers a wide range of economic and political agreements between nations. These agreements may be formal or informal, bilateral or multilateral, but with specific objectives and phases which are intended to prepare the States to globalization. Specific goals of integration are precisely to ensure access to a wider market, also improve international competitiveness through more efficient use of resources and the removal of structural barriers, promote political cooperation to reduce tensions, increase the bargaining power of the group and thus its members. Face to the competition required by globalization, particularly in dealing with inequalities in development between the countries of the world, integration is a lifeline for developing countries which cannot go to globalisation at risk to suffer from harmful consequences. As such, integration does not offer the same benefits as it applies to a developing countries or an industrialized country. Which brings us to recognize that integration is an additional asset to globalisation. This one is presented as a jungle, where the most powerful economic entities hold sway. Regional integration as a grouping of countries that are geographically close is a way for them to prepare for globalization.

The second argument is that regional integration is a factor of industrialization and international trade development. Measures to foster regional integration have an impact on the economies of the region and intra-regional trade. These are mainly the reduction of the tariffs, the effect of expanding demand and the effect of common external tariff. The reduction of tariff barriers leads to greater development of community trade. Regional integration, when it well manages allows to corporate of the community to be more organized in order to compete internationally in their own regions and in the international environment. A study has demonstrated that MERCOSUR has served as a training ground for insertion in the global market economies in this group,especially those that are more powerful as Brazil and Argentina. The European Union and NAFTA, under their respective constitutive documents, are implemented free trade zones. The enlargement of the European Union expands eastwards to the European market of seventy five million consumers. European companies thus have a huge market and can use the European space to go to the conquest of the international market. Countries within a region can use regional integration to promote their presence in international markets and benefit from their comparative advantages in the world trade.

The third argument is that borders are no longer a division and opposition between the states. They become factors of cooperation. The best example is found in the European Union with the Schengen zone which has institutionalized the free movement of persons within the area. Regional integration has the same objectives as the globalisation: the abolition of borders. While a feature of globalisation is the free movement of financial flows, regional integration through the creation of large areas of free trade more easily attracts investment and encourages capital accumulation. For example, following its accession to the European Union, foreign direct investment have been in some economic sectors of the UK to benefit from huge market offered by the community. The European Union, with its economies increasingly integrated and market power play a significant role in international negotiations held in the context of globalisation. It can better defend its interests within the WTO. Through regional integration, Africa can speak in a loud voice on the international scene and better defend its interests . However globalisation which refers originally to an integration of different political units that build up the world, finally directly produces its opposite: the fragmentation of the world. It seems that the fragmentation causes the consequence whereby the primary role is to resist to the globalisation. Some apply the quota system to limit quantity of goods to enter their area, others prefer to allocate subventions to local and subregional businesses. Thus integration in this sense means inequality which is paradoxical to globalisation. Therefore we should remember that this simplistic view that tends to make integration an asset for insertion into globalisation must be taken with caution. The integration that has been illustrated is sometimes a factor of disintegration, but beyond that, we must admit that gathering within a region can achieve a real integration into globalisation.

If regionalism is a real factor to globalisation then we can wonder what should be done to ensure that imbalance is observed in developing countries especially in Africa can be restored ? African should accept to join themselves to face to the international competition, as if the economy is bad it will also apply to its policy. It must be admitted that a lot of things remain to be done for the integration. It is the search for greater economic security that motivates developing countries to look into developed countries and to seek new forms of partnership with them, others advocate more of a neighborhood regionalism between developing countries, less disruptive and closer to their needs. But the general idea is that North-South agreements provide a lot more advantages than disadvantages. For developed countries they are eager to promote such partnerships, particularly to stimulate development and reduce the problems of insecurity. Finally it allows people to better enjoy the benefits of globalisation and to spread in the common interest.

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Besides regionalism allows flexible agreements, indeed increasing economic interdependence in regions does not systematically mean formal agreements. The establishment of the EU, NAFTA or MERCOSUR has involved increased intra-area trade, but it was not the case for ASEAN. The intra-regional trade are much denser at the entire Asian Eastern region (ASEAN but also China, Japan and Korea) although there are no formal structures of integration. East Asia perfectly illustrates the coexistence of regional global dynamics. In this part of the world, deepening regional interdependence is partly due to an opening outside and a search for competitiveness in global markets. Conversely, areas that least involved actively in globalisation are also those that are poorly integrated regionally. This is particularly the case of economies in the Middle East.

Finally globalisation has a number of risks, especially related to the financial sphere and acceleration of capital movements. In these circumstances, regional integration can be a way to be protected from disruptions caused by globalisation. The debate on globalisation and regionalism has long been focused only on trade policy issues. To conclude, regionalism is both a component of globalisation and a response to this process.


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