The terms “region,” “regionalism,” and “regional integration” are often used synonymously in the academe. For instance, one author refers to Pacific Asian regionalization, North American regionalism and regional integration in Europe. Some authors view “regionalism” as the analytically broader term. Since the mid-1990s, there has been a more general movement toward “economic regionalism or regional trade agreements,” building on the concept of “new regionalism” and coinciding with the notion of “preferential trading arrangements.” This implies only those integration schemes which have an economic purpose, are in geographical proximity to each other, and consist of more than two states qualify for inclusion. There are five stages in the deepening of formal regional integration: free trade area, customs union, common market, economic union, and political union. From the late-1950s to the late 1990s, two approaches have attempted to explain the process (rather than the origins) of regionalism: neofunctionalism and liberal intergovernmentalism. Scholars argue whether there is a causal connection between regional integration and Global Political Economy (GPE), or whether they are simply correlated. Three themes from the literature on regionalism and GPE can be identified. First, the numerous studies since the late 1990s that have taken a decidedly comparative approach, irrespective of their level of analysis, agree that there is some “logic” to regional arrangements. Second, confusion occurs with domestic causality. Third, large membership has become a concern for the European Union.
Trade governance rests upon certain economic assumptions and the ensuing political compromises made possible by the growth of an incremental legal consensus. The main economic assumptions are that trade will deliver upon the objectives of socio-economic development, stable, long-term employment opportunities and poverty reduction. These assumptions are theoretically sound, but are increasingly challenged by the complex political realities of global trade. The study of trade in the field of international political economy (IPE) has deep roots in the postwar disciplines of economics and political science. The literature on the history of trade regulation places the current system, with its emphasis on the legitimizing imprimatur of political power and the significance of binding treaty, into a more nuanced context in which present practices, while sometimes novel, are frequently older than most policy makers realize. In the two decades since the finalization of the Uruguay Round and the creation of the World Trade Organization (WTO), a host of significant issues have arisen as scholars and policy makers attempt to implement the WTO’s mandate and navigate the political waters of trade regulation as it relates to domestic law and policy. These include the set of issues raised by the broadening of trade regulation post-Uruguay Round to include trade related intellectual property rights and trade in services, the contentious issue of trade and economic development, and the issue of WTO reform.