Are Regional Trading Partners 'Natural'?

Posted: 27 Apr 2003

See all articles by Pravin Krishna

Pravin Krishna

Johns Hopkins University - Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS); Brown University - Department of Economics; National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

Abstract

A central statement of the theory of natural trading partners is that preferential trading with regional trading partners is less likely to be trade diverting and therefore geographically proximate partners are to be considered "natural" partners for preferential arrangements. This paper examines this question empirically. The analytical framework involves a general equilibrium model of preferential trade and an econometric model with tight links to this theory. This framework is used to implement tests of the natural trading partners hypothesis using U.S. trade data for the years 1964-95: Welfare changes that would result from preferential tariff reductions by the United States against various trading partners are first estimated, and correlations with bilateral "distance" measures (with and without controls for income levels) are then examined. Since the argument for "natural" trading partners is based on the greater likelihood of geographically proximate countries to be more significant trade partners, correlations between the welfare change estimates and bilateral trade volume are examined as well. Both geographic proximity and trade volume are found to have no effect. Thus this paper is unable to find any support for the natural trading partners theory in U.S. data.

Suggested Citation

Krishna, Pravin, Are Regional Trading Partners 'Natural'?. Journal of Political Economy, Vol. 111, February 2003. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=366622

Pravin Krishna (Contact Author)

Johns Hopkins University - Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS) ( email )

1740 Massachusetts Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20036-1984
United States

Brown University - Department of Economics ( email )

64 Waterman Street
Providence, RI 02912
United States

National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

1050 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

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