The world is increasing settling into the pattern of three big protectionist trading blocs: the North American, European and Japanese-Asian.
The difficulties faced by developing countries in exporting have been heightened with the formation of regional groupings among industrialized countries and the consequent removal of barriers to their intra-trade. Among the countries outside these groupings, the developing countries tend to be most vulnerable to the resultant differential tariff and non-tariff treatment, given their initial competitive disadvantages. As a result of the formation of such groupings and other preferential arrangements, almost two-fifths of the intra-trade in manufactured and semi-manufactured products among the developed market economy countries are already on a preferential basis. With the enlargement of the EEC/EU, the share of preferential intra-trade among developed market economy countries is even greater. In addition, trade in industrial products between EEC/EU member states and other European developed market economy countries is increasingly on a preferential basis.
Multilateral trade produces a higher standard of living than is possible under competitive regional blocs.