Regional integration agreements (RIAs) have led to major developments in international relations between and among many countries, specifically increases in international trade and investment and in the formation of regional trading blocs. As fundamental to the multi-faceted process of globalization, regional integration has been a major development in the international relations of recent years. As such, Regional Integration Agreements has gained high importance. Not only are almost all the industrial nations part of such agreements, but also a huge number of developing nations too are a part of at least one, and in cases, more than one such agreement.
The amount of trade that takes place within the scope of such agreements is about 35%, which accounts to more than one-third of the trade in the world.The main objective of these agreements is to reduce trade barriers among those nations concerned, but the structure may vary from one agreement to another. The removal of the trade barriers or liberalization of many economies has had multiple impacts, in some cases increasing Gross domestic product (GDP), but also resulting in greater global inequality, concentration of wealth and an increasing frequency and intensity of economic crises.
The number of agreements agreed under the rules of the GATT and the WTO and signed in each year has dramatically increased since the 1990s. There were 194 agreements ratified in 1999 and it contained 94 agreements form the early 1990s.
The last few years have experienced huge qualitative as well as quantitative changes in the agreements related to the Regional Integration Scheme. The top three major changes were the following:
- Deep Integration Recognition
- Closed regionalism to open model
- Advent of trade blocs