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Regional Integration Inconsistency with Globalization


With the term of Globalization being in vogue and regional integration agreements being signed across the globe, the coalition of the concepts has been questioned. On one hand, the two concepts are considered as facilitators of each other while on the other hand, the thinkers like Kudo Akira believe that the two ideas are antagonistic forces where one strives at assimilating all the regional identities in a solitary global identity whereas the other advocates the survival of the regional diversity. This paper succinctly introduces the major concepts of Globalization and Regional Integration and further delves into the details of the topic by considering the two concepts as paradoxical entities. Conclusively, the understanding of the difference between the two terms leads to the argument that regional integration stands inconsistent with globalization.

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To comprehend the topic logically, it is mandatory to build a fundamental understanding of the key terms like Regional Integration and Globalization. By the words of Held D. in ‘Global Transformations’, globalization is a process fueled by, and resulting in, increasing cross-border flows of goods, services, money, people, information, and culture’ (Guillen, 2001). Regional Integration or Regionalization on the other hand refers to the attempts of nations within a particular region to enhance peaceful relations and incorporation with the neighboring states through joint ventures and joining regional organizations. According to the definition proposed by Langehove in his paper ‘Regionalizing Human Security in Africa’, Regional integration is a process of social transformation characterized by an intensification of relations between states (2004). Such processes intensification involves formal agreements between two or more nations.

Difference between Globalization and Regional Integration

Often misinterpreted as synonymous terms, regional integration is confined to the collaboration of nations within a peculiar region whereas the term globalization extends the concept of incorporation of nations across the entire globe thereby reckoning the world as a global village. Such a distinction is rather superficial and thinkers like Kudo Akira have sketched clear distinctions between the two concepts based on their effects on the practicing nations. On a profound level, the difference between globalization and regional integration lies in the concept of ‘border’. Unlike the concept of a ‘borderless world’ as the key thought of globalists, the proponents of regional integration advocate the presence of boundaries and the prevalence of states with their diversity. The fundamental thought of these proponents is to integrate for the sake of maintaining statehood. This profound difference can be well elucidated in the words of Waters who said, “If globalisation in its most complete sense takes effect then the nation-state will be its chief victim (Shaneland).”

The Paradox of Globalization and Regional Integration

The stance of globalization with regional integration stands different for different nations depending on the major factor of their current sustainability. For instance, globalization is reckoned as a threat for the weaker powers where the only refuge to safeguard their state from the sweeping effects of globalization is to unite them with the neighboring nations thereby developing a stronger entity.

Kudo Akira in his paper ‘Globalization and Regional Integration’ raises the very issue. According to Akira, the practice of regional integration has been prevalent since the times of imperial powers but contrary to the current wave of globalization, regional integration was practiced to assert the identity of the region, and ‘the term regionalization describes this tenacity of identity (Akira, p.5). Favoring the very thought, Patsy Lewis in his book ‘Surviving Small Size: Regional Integration in Caribbean Ministates’ brings back the incident of a summit of the Organization of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) held on 28 May 1987 to take a union initiative. The decision to take such a union initiative, according to him, was due to the perils of independent existence and the lack of opportunities within the smaller territories (Lewis 2002, p.1 ).

Seeing the other side of the coin, regional integration for the larger nations is reckoned as a way to the aspired globalization since the benefits of a global world are far greater than those for the smaller ones. It is for this reason that globalization is often perceived through an American frame of thought and many antiglobalists call it Americanization.

The true relationship between globalization and regional integration depends on the nature of integration. Commenced as a wholly economic phenomenon promoting regional trade, the concept of regional integration has transformed into new regional integration encompassing the social, political, and cultural scenarios. The regional integration agreements for economic collaboration are conducive to maintaining the sustainability of all the nations in the region. For instance, the European Union after its very formation has resulted in a rise of all the twenty-seven members. By the uniformity of the euro as the area’s principal currency, the value of the concerned currency has raised since the inception of the European Union in the early 1990s. Another benefit of a single currency is the avoidance of currency exchange costs. This has helped Europe is maintaining its economic strength in the times of globalization as one of its missions is the maintenance of Identity and diversity in a globalized world (Europa). The example of the European Union elucidates the fact that although the European countries converged in a unified whole, these nations neither lost their identity nor damaged the concept of statehood. However, when talking about the social scenario, the concept of regional integration seems less affecting since the waves of globalization have been fading out the region-specific culture. Either way, regional integration serves as a barrier in the way of sweeping globalization.

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Reasons for Regional Integration’s inconsistency with Globalization

According to Sir Arthur Lewis, Regional Integration is to facilitate ‘a common currency and common representation abroad’. This concept strengthens the otherwise weaker and vulnerable nations like the small islands of the East Caribbean area (ECCB) when they are internationally represented with the bigger neighboring powers.

The inconsistency of globalization with regional integration can be best elucidated in the light of benefits endowed by the regional integration which on the contrary are at stake by fully adopting globalization. At a superficial glance, the objectives of globalization and regional integration appear to be the same. For instance both advocates barrier-free trade, transfer of technology and pooling of technical expertise, etc. But by confining the very strategies to a particular region, the outcome is an increasing strength of the region as a whole. Regional trade, unlike free trade, provides fair competition whereas in the international market many fostering nations lag because of the increased share of bigger nations in the international trade thereby making the distribution of benefits unequal (Southern African Regional Poverty Network).

According to Ari Kokko, one of the basic objectives of regional integration is the economic growth of the integrating countries. This leads to the preferential trade policies thereby posing a direct contradiction to the nonpreferential policy of free trade set by the World Trade Organization, a tool of globalization. Such a region biased trade not only leads to the strength of the region but also adds to the power of the member states carrying out the trade. Globalization, on the other hand, facilitates increasing trade but at the cost of statehood since the role of the World Trade Organization supersedes the role of states. According to the paper “Is there a future for the nation-state in an era of globalisation? If so, what future?” provided by Shaneland, there are three basic challenges that the nations are to face as a result of global development shaped by rapid globalization. These include (a) a reduced ability of the state to exert influence on its economy in the times when economic transactions are increasingly taking place on a global level which is considered due to the trend of free trade; (b) an augmentation of trans-national bodies like UN and (c) the establishment of global ruling organizations. Often termed as the super-national and sub-national centers of power, they include bodies like United Nations. The same author believes that in such a scenario the role of the state has shifted from being the ‘primary unit of international relations to being a provider of public goods and infrastructure to global businesses’.

Approaching the benefits of regional integration differently, the technology transfer through regional collaboration takes place much faster than that in an international scenario where the countries are starkly divided as agricultural and industrial.

Some of the key issues that form a primary focus of regional integration are not put under consideration by globalists. Issues like national security are not emphasized under the debate of globalization. The need for regional security is visible by tracing the reasons behind the formation of major regional unions. For instance, one of the major motives behind the establishment of the European Union was the achievement of intraregional security. Also, the creation of Mercosur, a Regional Trade Agreement (RTA) among Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay, and Paraguay, 1991 has assuaged the bilateral relations between South American states of Brazil and Argentine- previous political rivals. Such peace fostering situations not only create a positive relationship between the nations but also assist them in saving their budgetary costs assigned for military expenditures. In the words of Robert Schuman and Jean Monnet, regional agreements especially those focused on economic trade make the concept of war almost impossible (Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development). Stated differently, regional organizations help create peace among nations. On the other hand, it is a datum of experience that globalization has failed to assert its force in maintaining world peace. The notion can be substantiated with the fact that since the upheaval of globalization in the last few decades the scenario of world peace has rather depreciated. The concept of national security is not just limited to intraregional security but also encompasses the idea of protecting the nations from the threats of the bigger powers. Almost all the famous regional integration agreements today share a common historic goal of protecting the member nations from the larger states. According to the studies of George Wachira in his paper ‘Linking Peace, Security and Regional Integration in Africa’, the majority of African states do not only face a chief threat of socio-economic problems but security is yet another paralyzing force against these nations. It was to avoid the intra-regional conflicts that there emerged a need for increased regional collaboration thereby resulting in the formation of regional integration agreements like ECOWAS (2003). Similar is the case with the Gulf Cooperation Council. According to Wachira, it is the human security within a particular region that marks the development of that area. It is because the vulnerability of nations catalyzes the process of wars thereby negatively affecting the developmental growth of the concerned nations.


Both globalization and regional integration share the commonality of collaboration among nations but the approach in terms of their vastness differs starkly thereby creating key contradictions in the goals of the two ideas. At a superficial glance, it appears that regional integration is a key tool of globalization however a more intricate analysis into the depth of the two concepts suggests a contrary scenario. Opposed to the concept of a borderless world of globalization, regional integration strives at the maintenance and sustainability of the already existing nations by converting them into regional unions to strengthen their status. With the contradicting goals of regional integration like augmenting the trade in the region, starting joint ventures for the development of private sectors of the countries, and attempting for the peaceful situation within the region, the regional integration excels globalization in terms of its benefits to the concerned nations. In short, the terms globalization and regional integration cannot be reckoned as truly antagonistic forces since the two still share several common goals but with the major contradiction in terms of the concepts like statehood and nonpreferential trade, the two forces stand inconsistent with each other.


Akira, K, A Note of Globalization and Regional Integration, ISS, 2008, Web.

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Europa, Why the European Union? 2008. Web.

Guillen, M 2001, ‘Is Globalization Civilizing, Destructive or Feeble? a Critique of Five Key Debates in the Social Science Literature’, Annual Review of Sociology, pp. 235.

Is there a future for the nation-state in an era of globalisation? If so, what future? Shaneland, United Kingdom, 2008. Web.

Kokko, A, Regional Integration, FETP, 2008. Web.

Langehove, L.V 2004, Regionalizing Human Security in Africa, Unite Nations University, 2008. Web.

Lewis, P 2002, Surviving Small Size: Regional Integration in Caribbean Ministates, University of the West Indies Press, Barbados.

Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development, Regional Integration Agreements, 2008. Web.

Southern African Regional Poverty Network (SARPN), Regional Integration: Concepts, Advantages, Disadvantages and lessons of Experience, 2008. Web.

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Wachira, G 2003, Linking Peace, Security and Regional Integration in Africa, Unite Nations University, 2008. Web.

Why Regional Integration Benefits, Easter Caribbean Central Bank, 2008. Web.

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