Global–Regional Realignments in Trade, Finance and Development: Introduction to the Special Issue

Global–Regional Realignments in Trade, Finance and Development: Introduction to the Special Issue

Multilateral Bretton Woods institutions such as the IMF, the World Bank and the WTO are increasingly challenged by a rising number of bilateral, regional and plurilateral organizations. The mandates of global and regional organizations overlap and intersect when trade is being regulated, financial crisis lending is being provided or development is being financed. In this special issue we examine the forms, dynamics and implications of these global–regional realignments for global economic governance. By drawing on the analytical toolbox of regime complexity research, the authors address mechanisms of integration and disintegration in the regime complexes in trade, finance and development from the viewpoint of actors and particularly regional challengers. The papers discuss first, the motives and strategies to spur fragmentation or integration. Second, they examine to what extent actors seek to substitute or complement focal institutions on the global level. Third, the special issue evaluates the implications of a coexistence of integration and disintegration for global economic governance.

Policy Implications

  • Integration in a regime complex through forum-linking is often driven by materially large powers that seek to realize first-mover advantages by spreading their regulatory models across different levels. Policy makers should thus be aware that dominant solutions reflect inherent power asymmetries.
  • The WTO, the World Bank or the IMF should factor in that regional actors seek collaboration to benefit from the expertise, reputation, size or resources of the global hubs. Global institutions are mostly complemented rather than substituted.
  • Regional actors prefer decentralized, regional or bilateral arrangements for strategic reasons related to national or regional imperatives. Decentralized arrangements may provide materially weaker actors with a stronger voice in decision-making processes.


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  • Governing the global-regional interface should seek to exploit the benefits of both centralized and decentralized institutions.
  • Positive coordination through working groups or intermediaries should attempt to explore options for joint strategies to maximize the overall effectiveness of policies. Negative coordination based on the principle of subsidiarity should seek to inhibit the negative externalities of decentralized solutions by specifying rules for a possible division of labor between centralized and decentralized units.