Common Market

A formal trading agreement wherein member countries adopt a common external tariff

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What is a Common Market?

A common market is a formal agreement where a group is formed amongst several countries that adopt a common external tariff. In a common market, countries also allow free trade and free movement of labor and capital among the members of the group. The trade arrangement is aimed at providing improved economic benefits to all the members of the common market.

Common Market - Image of two men shaking hands against a blue background with arrows pointing upward

The most famous example of a common market is the European Common Market, which aims to provide the free movement of goods, capital, services, and labor within the European Union.

Conditions Required to be Defined as a Common Market

To be defined as a common market, the following conditions must be satisfied:

  1. Tariffs, quotas, and all barriers regarding importing and exporting goods and services among members of the common market are eliminated.
  2. Common trade restrictions such as tariffs on countries outside the group are adopted by all members.
  3. Production factors such as labor and capital are able to move freely without restriction among member countries.

If one of the conditions is not satisfied, the resulting market is not a common market. For example, if production factors such as labor and capital are not able to move freely without restriction among member countries, then the arrangement would instead be defined as a customs union.

Benefits of a Common Market

1. Free movement of people, goods, services, and capital

In addition to the removal of tariffs among member countries, the key benefits of a common market include the free movement of people, goods, services, and capital. Therefore, a common market is often regarded as a “single market” as it allows the free movement of production factors without the obstruction created by national borders.

2. Efficiency in production

For an economy, a common market facilitates efficiency among members – factors of production become more efficiently allocated, resulting in stronger economic growth. As the market becomes more efficient, inefficient companies eventually shut down due to intense competition.

Companies that remain typically benefit from economies of scale and increased profitability, and innovate more to compete in a more intensely competitive landscape.

Costs of a Common Market

1. Less competitive countries may suffer

The transition to a common market comes with a few drawbacks. For one, companies that have previously been protected and subsidized by the government may struggle to remain afloat in a more competitive landscape. The migration of production factors to other countries may hinder the economic growth of the country and lead to increased unemployment.

2. Trade diversion

Trade diversion occurs when efficient non-members are crowded out of the common market. Furthermore, a country may exhibit depressed wages if it faces an influx of migration of production factors where supply exceeds demand.

Real-World Example

In July 2010, Kenyan President Mwai Kibaki formed the East African Common Market to accelerate economic growth and development in the region. The establishment of a common market in East Africa was an expansion of an existing customs union, which was created in 2005 and was made up of six countries in eastern Africa: Burundi, Kenya, Rwanda, South Sudan, Tanzania, and Uganda.

The EACM was established to provide the “four freedoms,” with the aim of boosting the region’s economy and increasing productivity. The four freedoms are:

  1. The free movement of goods
  2. The free movement of labor
  3. The free movement of services
  4. The free movement of capital

Following the creation of the EACM in 2010, a protocol was signed in 2013 detailing the plan to further integrate member countries by means of a monetary union. Recently, in 2018, a committee was formed to begin drafting a regional constitution.

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