Games regional actors play: dependency, regionalism, and integration theory for the Global South

  • Sebastian KrapohlEmail author
Original Article


Prevailing integration theories suffer from Eurocentrism and cannot be applied to developing regions, because they implicitly rely on intraregional economic interdependence as a driving force for regional integration. This article starts from the observation that intraregional economic interdependence is low and dependence on extra-regional economic relations is high in the Global South. The aim of regional integration in developing regions is not the liberalisation and regulation of intraregional trade, rather an effort to improve the regions’ competitiveness on the global market. Well-integrated developing regions may attract more extra-regional investment inflows and negotiate better access to extra-regional export markets, but the regional member states also compete with each other for their respective shares in extra-regional investment and trade. Dominant regional powers may do better in this competition if they act unilaterally and strive for privileged economic relations with extra-regional partners. As a result, the respective member states defect and regional integration is stalled. Case studies of MERCOSUR and SADC confirm that Brazil and South Africa protected their privileged positions during the last 15 years. In contrast, ASEAN is not dominated by a regional power and economic integration has proceeded due to the gains from extra-regional cooperation within the ASEAN + 3 framework.


ASEAN Comparative regionalism Developing regions Game theory MERCOSUR SADC 



I would like to thank Simon Fink, Thomas Gehring, Katharina Meissner, Johannes Muntschick, Daniel Rempe, and Axel Obermeier for their research cooperation. In addition, my thanks go to Brian Burgoon, Ursula Daxecker, Luc Francen, Sijeong Lim, Miriam Prys, Geoffrey Underhill, Dawid Walentek, and three anonymous reviewers for their comments on earlier versions of this article. Finally, a special thanks goes to Anne Fleming for proofreading the final manuscript. All remaining mistakes are of course my own.


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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Faculty of Social and Behavioural SciencesUniversity of AmsterdamAmsterdamThe Netherlands

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