Friday, 12 October 2012

Preferential Trading Arrangements

Preferential trading arrangements refer to such things as trade blocs. Trade restrictions are held with the rest of the world but lower restrictions or none with member states. There are three types of preferential trading arrangement:

  • Free Trade Area - This is when member states remove tariffs and quotas with one another. However, restrictions on trade with non-member states are kept individual to each nation.
  • Customs Union - This is the same as above, but in addition there are common external restrictions on trade with non-member states. 
  • Common Markets - This takes it one step further and the members operate as a single market. This means as well as the features of the above arrangements there is also a common taxation system, common laws regarding production, employment and trade, free movement of labour and capital and no special treatment by governments to their own domestic industries. Additionally to this, we sometimes see fixed exchange rates between members and common macroeconomic policies. 

Next we move on to trade creation and trade diversion, which come as a result of preferential trading arrangements. First, trade creation. This is when consumption shifts from a high-cost producer to a low-cost producer as a result of of joining the customs union. Normally this is due to obtaining the goods cheaper from other members of the union. As with most things, this can be modeled on a diagram! 

Trade Creation Diagram

This is it, the trade creation diagram. Let's explain it a bit. SDom and DDom are the domestic supply and demand of a good. Before the EU, the country had to pay at the 'PEU + tariff' price so domestic production was at Q2 and domestic demand was at Q1. The imports here were the difference between Q1 and Q2. With the joining of the EU, the price was now the PEU price, lower than before. This meant domestic supply had fallen to Q4 and domestic demand had risen to Q3. So the new imports level is the difference between Q3 and Q4, which is higher than before. Thus, trade has been created. 

Trade diversion works in very much the opposite way. This is when consumption shifts from a lower cost producer outside the customs union to a higher cost producer inside it. There is a net loss in world efficiency now the higher cost producer is being used. 

Trade Diversion Diagram

This is the trade diversion diagram. The country was initially paying price P1 for the good, meaning they consumed at Q1 and produced at Q2. Price falls to P2 because of the joining of the EU. We can see here, that consumer surplus has improved. The original consumer surplus at price P1 has now increased to include the areas 1, 2, 3 and 4 on the diagram. We also notice a loss of producer surplus by area 1 which will be the fall in profits. No tariffs are paid out anymore, so the areas 3 and 5 are lost to the government in terms of revenue. This leaves an overall net gain of areas 1 + 2 + 3 + 4 - 1 - 3 - 5 = 2 + 4 - 5. Here we can decide whether the trade diversion has been beneficial or detrimental. If the size of area 5 which we have lost is greater than the size of areas 2 plus 4 which we've gained then there is a net loss, otherwise we've achieved a net gain. 

If there are high external tariffs or a small cost difference between goods produced inside and outside of the union then a customs union is likely to lead to trade diversion.

In the long term, a customs union could have advantages and disadvantages, I'll name a few of both:
  • Advantages:
    • Increased market size - allows firms to potentially exploit economies of scale to lower costs.
    • Better terms of trade with world markets because of the power of the customs union.
    • Increased competition which will stimulate efficiency and bring costs down.
  • Disadvantages:
    • Resources may flow to the geographical centre for the lower transport costs leaving depressed regions on the edge of the union.
    • Mergers will be encouraged which will boost monopoly powers.
    • Diseconomies of scale.
    • The administration costs of maintaining the union.

The basics of preferential trading arrangements in one blog post, tadaaa! Thank you for reading, keep sharing and following the blog! Thanks guys, have a good day.


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