Regional Integration

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Guest lecturers Katalin Völgyi and Judit Ritz in the International Organisations and Multilateral Diplomacy module

In the framework of the International Organisations and Multilateral Diplomacy module, Professor Krisztina Vida invited in November two guest lecturers successively to speak about two important regional integrations; namely ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) and MERCOSUR (Southern Common Market in South America).

The two groups are the third and fourth biggest regional economic blocks after the EU and NAFTA and thus play a very significant role in the global economy as well as in the world of international organisations. Both experts, Katalin Völgyi PhD and Judit Ricz PhD came from the Hungarian Academy of Sciences to share their research results with the students. Both researchers emphasised respectively that despite the ambitious political and economic intentions and objectives, both ASEAN and MERCOSUR are far from a perfect integration. They can be perceived as comprehensive free trade areas rather than full customs unions or common markets. Both can also be characterised by a „heavyweight” member: Indonesia and Brazil and also both are trading more with their external partners – mainly the EU, China and the US – than with each other (intra-block trade accounting for roughly one fifth of their total trade only).

There are of course also important differences between the two organisations. While socially (including language use, religion, mentality) MERCOSUR is far more homogenous than ASEAN, the latter seems to be more successful in integration into the world economy via attracting FDI, joining global value chains and thereby undergoing faster industrialisation and modernisation. This can be explained by the fact that ASEAN is also driven by bottom-up economic rationale while MERCOSUR is first of all a politics-driven process lacking strong economic fundamentals. Nevertheless, these two blocks significantly contribute to the contemporary trends of regionalisation of the global economy and also to the spreading of integration models. Thus both must be seen as ongoing and continuously changing/evolving processes rather than static organisations.