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Trading Blocs and Agreements

13 May, 2016 - 13:23

US companies make one-third of their revenues from products marketed abroad, in places such as Asia and Latin America. The North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) further boosts export sales by enabling companies to sell goods at lower prices because of reduced tariffs.

Regional trading blocs represent a group of nations that join together and formally agree to reduce trade barriers among themselves. The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) is an example of a regional trading block. The organization is compromised of 10 independent member nations, including Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand, and the Philippines. A free trade agreement within ASEAN member nation allows for the free exchange of trade, service, labor and capital. However, a universal implementation of these standards is scheduled for 2020. In addition, ASEAN promotes regional integration of transportation and energy infrastructure.

One of the potentially interesting results of trade agreements like ASEAN or NAFTA is that many products previously restricted by dumping laws, laws designed to keep out foreign products, would be allowed to be marketed. The practice of dumping involves a company selling products in overseas markets at very low prices, one intention being to steal business from local competitors. These laws were designed to prevent pricing practices that could seriously harm local competition. The laws were designed to prevent large producers from flooding markets. In 2007, about 60 nations had anti-dumping legislation. Those in favor of agreements argue that anti-dumping laws penalize those companies who are capable of competing in favor of those companies that are not competitive.

Almost all the countries in the Western hemisphere have entered into one or more regional trade agreements. Such agreements are designed to facilitate trade through the establishment of a free trade area, customs union or customs market. Free trade areas and customs unions eliminate trade barriers between member countries while maintaining trade barriers with nonmember countries. Customs unions maintain common tariffs and rates for nonmember countries. A common market provides for harmonious fiscal and monetary policies while free trade areas and customs unions do not. Trade agreements are becoming a growing force for trade liberalization; the development of such agreements provides for tremendous opportunities for companies with global operations.

The creation of the single European market in 1992 was expected to change the way marketing is done worldwide. It meant the birth of a market that was larger than the United States, and the introduction of European Currency Units (Euros) in place of the individual currencies of member nations. Experience in multilingual marketing would help non-European companies succeed in this gigantic market. With new technologies such as multilingual processing programs, it would be possible to target potential customers anywhere in Europe, in any language, and in the same marketing campaign.

Progress toward European unification has been slow—many doubt that complete unification will ever be achieved. However, on 1 January, 1999, 11 of the 15 member nations took a significant step toward unification by adopting the Euro as the common currency. These 11 nations represent 290 million people and a USD 6.5 trillion market. Still, with 14 different languages and distinctive national customs, it is unlikely that the European Union (EU) will ever become the "United States of Europe".