Regional Trade Agreements and Democracy Promotion: Measuring the Influence of Democracy Requirements in Regional Trade Agreements


Political Science and International Affairs

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This article examines the capacity of regional trade agreements (RTAs) to assist and foster democracy in their respective regions. While the principal raison d'être of RTAs is to stimulate economic growth among its member states, several regional trade associations have embedded democratic requirements into their governance documents. These requirements elevate democracy to a fundamental value of the associations, and mandate (in most instances) that both current and candidate members possess and uphold democratic political systems and practices. This article examines the regional impact of democracy requirements in trade blocs by exploring four leading RTAs: the European Union, NAFTA Mercosur, and ASEAN. The article finds that the ability to promote democracy is impacted by three primary RTA characteristics: (1) the material benefits of membership; (2) the intensity of political and economic integration among member states; and (3) the level of democratic consolidation exhibited by member states.