Freer international trade and the consequences for EU rural areas

Jean-Christophe Bureau


General equilibrium models estimated by various authors and institutions show that, although trade liberalization leads to aggregate welfare gains, there are winners and losers. The aim of this article is to determine to what extent rural regions have won or lost in the trade opening process that has been underway since the 1990s. The economic literature on international trade and regional development suggests the presence of opposing forces, making the global impact of international trade liberalization on rural areas ambiguous. Using a series of empirical studies, the author assesses the impact of trade opening on the European regions, observing a significant proportion of losers in the trade liberalization process among the rural regions of Europe. The article concludes with an analysis of the negative effects of welfare losses on the environment and territorial ordering in many rural regions, and suggests the need to address the problem by modifying current EU policies.


Trade liberalization; European Rural regions and rural development policies

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