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Different Paths of Regional Integration: Trade Networks and Regional Institution-Building in Europe, Southeast Asia and Southern Africa


  • The authors would like to thank Thomas Gehring, the team of the Bamberg Cluster for Regional Integration (BaCRI), the participants of the KFG workshop ‘How Does Europe Diffuse?’ in Berlin in December 2010, and the participants of our panel at the German International Relations conference in Munich in September 2011 for their comments. In addition, we owe many thanks to Viktoria Pregler, who proofread the article for language mistakes. Finally, the manuscript benefited greatly from the suggestions of three anonymous reviewers. All remaining errors are our own.


Sebastian Krapohl

Department of International Relations

University of Bamberg

Feldkirchenstraße 21

96052 Bamberg




This article argues that regional integration can follow three different developmental paths, depending on the centrality of external economic actors and economic asymmetries in regional trade networks. The first path causes intra-regional interdependence, the second path reinforces dependence on extra-regional actors, and the third path reinforces asymmetries in the region. The article illustrates this argument using diachronic network visualization of trade networks in three world regions. The European Union (EU) corresponds to the first path, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) to the second and the Southern African Development Community (SADC) to the third. The theoretical argument and empirical analysis in the article demonstrate how regional organizations get locked into these developmental paths, and how regional integration reinforces rather than changes existing economic structures.

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