Intra-regional trade has become more prominent following the increase in regional integration agreements in some major areas (EU, NAFTA, ASEAN and Mercosur). Nevertheless the share of intra-regional trade in world trade (which also depends on the number of member countries and the trade size of the region) has not grown significantly in recent years.
Intra-regional trade among member countries of the European Union (EU27) represents more than 25% of world merchandise trade. This share has fluctuated over 1999-2007, with a downward trend after 2003. NAFTA's intra-regional trade has declined continuously since 2001 and amounted to less than 7% of world trade in 2007. The shares of intra-regional trade in ASEAN and Mercosur are very small but have followed an upward trend in the last few years, reflecting, among other things, the more rapid growth of their member countries.
The same picture emerges when analysing intra-regional trade shares, i.e. the share of intra-regional trade in the total trade of regions instead the total world (Other things being equal, larger regions - in terms of total trade and/or number of member countries - tend to have higher intra-regional trade shares, as shown by the European Union and NAFTA).
The share of intra-regional trade of the EU15 declined from around 64% in the early 1990s to less than 62% in 2000-03. The 2004 enlargement translated into an upward adjustment of this indicator, which remained quite stable around 66% in the following two years. The other three regions' intra-regional trade shares show a more or less pronounced upward trend in the 1990s, which has only continued in the current decade for ASEAN. NAFTA's intra-regional trade share has fallen back to its level of the early 1990s, due to the relatively slow growth of its total trade and to the nominal impact of the dollar depreciation. In the case of Mercosur, the financial crises in Brazil and Argentina brought about a sharp fall in the intra-regional trade share. The upward trend has resumed since 2003.
Number of preferential trade agreements notified to the GATT/WTO
Many indicators can be used to measure the empirical relevance of regional integration processes, considering either the number of agreements, or the value of trade among their member countries.
The WTO Secretariat keeps the count of the bilateral, plurilateral and regional preferential trade agreements in force, which have been notified by GATT/WTO member countries, in compliance with their obligations under GATT Article XXIV, the "Enabling Clause" and GATS Article V This count does not include agreements in force that are still to be notified, signed agreements that have not yet entered into force, agreements under negotiation or simply at the stage of proposal, and agreements among countries that are not members of the WTO.
Indicator in PDF
C.12.1 Preferential trade agreements notified to the GATT/WTO and in force, by date of entry into force, 1948-2008
C.12.2 World trade shares of intra-regional trade, by region