With the lowest integrated level in regional economic integration, Free Trade Arrangement (FTA) is applied most frequently, accounting for almost 90% of regional integration. (Hill 2007) Theoretically, all trade barriers both tariffs and non-tariff ones are eliminated in an ideal FTA. However, each member countries are free to determine independent trade policies against nonmember countries. (Hill 2007) Currently, the number of free trade arrangements is proliferating. FTA spread almost all over the world with the European Free Trade Association (EFTA), the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) are the most famous trade blocs. Additionally, in the Northeast Asia, China, Japan and Korea are undertaking preliminary research into the formation of a FTA. The formation of those FTA can be viewed as a way of gaining further benefits from free trade and investment during the long-term process of forming a global common market. Yet it has changed the situation of global economy to a certain degree. This essay will explore the benefits and costs of forming a free trade arrangement for both member and nonmember countries, paying particular attention to the economic and political aspects. It continues with an in-depth analysis of gains and losses in terms of industry from the formation of a free trade area with Japan and Korea. Based on the foregoing issues, finally it will recommend that China should support the establishment of this regional integration in general.
Economically speaking, the free trade is a positive-sum game and all participating countries would gain from it ultimately. To begin with, forming a FTA would benefit the member countries to a great degree. According to traditional international trade theories especially Ricardo’s theory of comparative advantage, with unrestricted free trade countries could specialize in the production of those goods and services that they produce most efficiently, while importing products that can be produced more efficiently in other countries. (Hill 2007) By utilizing of the scarce resources optimally, potential production is greater than it is with restricted trade. (Gilpin 2001) Meanwhile, the New Trade Theory pointed out that free trade could increase the variety of goods available to consumers while the prices of those goods are reduced on average. (Hill 2007) In addition to these static gains, free trade arrangement also brings dynamics gains in two kinds; both could stimulate economic growth. One is the availability of increased resources such as labour and capital from aboard caused by free trade. For example, between the period of 1989-1994 and the period of 1995-2000, Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) between the NAFTA members tripled. (Porter n.d.) Another gain, which comes from the improved efficiency of using those resources, includes several aspects. Respond to the expanded market, economies of scale could bring into full play. Also, technology transfer occurs under free trade; advanced technology is a crucial factor to promote productivity. In addition, FDI transfer know-how in other aspects such as marketing and management to host countries, which is also likely to stimulate economic growth. Finally, forming a free trade arrangement would enhance the competitiveness within the area; it stimulates producers to promote productivity. As a result, more efficient production would make member countries hold an advantage when compete in the global market. In the political view, free trade and multinational cooperation that it entails increase the prospects of world peace. Economic cooperation makes member countries especially neighboring states depend on each other closely and indeed a political cooperation is needed further. This will reduce potential conflict between members. (Hill 2007) Moreover, by integrating economies together, member countries would increase bargaining power in the world. (Apeldoorn n.d.)...
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