In spite of the rapid growth of merchandise trade since the end of World War II, the world economy is far from integrated. Services trade, capital flows, population migration, and price differences demonstrate far more scope for international economic integration. Even among nations with preferential trade agreements, networks of merchandise trade relations are far denser intra-nationally than internationally. The absence of goods trade predicted by trade models when nations have few policy barriers implies that crossing national boundaries is a significant indicator of increased transaction costs. These patterns have caused the world trade agenda to examine some unintended trade restrictions which make up a part of national domestic policies. This focus is apparent in current negotiations such as the Free Trade of the Americas Agreement. New items for negotiation include product standards, competition policies, services, and investment policies. Most contentious are labor and environmental standards, where the potential for protectionist capture is greater and the mutual recognition versus harmonization debate is obscured.


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