Last year the GED Team released its award winning data visualization tool GED VIZ.
Today we are proud to launch our newest Data Visualization Tool FTA VIS.
For the past twenty years, Free Trade Agreements (FTAs) have spread across the global economy like wildfire. It is estimated that, since 1995, more than 400 regional trade agreements have been registered, up from a mere 124 for the 1948 – 1994 period and with negotiations about new mega-regional FTAs like TTIP and TPP FTA’s now are more relevant than ever before.
Through its neat and accessible visualizations FTA VIS lets you dive right into the evolution of these agreements, showing you specific aspects while simultaneously painting a bigger picture of international trade relations.
How does FTA VIS work?
There are a multitude of functions FTA VIS has to offer. While the simple design and intuitive control of the tool certainly allows you to just open the page and start exploring, we also created this tutorial video to give you an overview of just how much you are able to see with FTA VIS:
One Picture is worth a thousand words
It’s a cliché phrase, but in the case of a data visualization tool like FTA VIS this old saying has a very literal truth to it. FTA VIS visualizes 789 trade agreements from 205 countries over the last 66 years. And each of these visualizations has its own story to tell. In today’s blogpost we want to tell you just one of those thousands of stories. Over the course of the next 6 days we will then tell you a new data story every 2 days.
Early hopes: FTAs and the Third World during the Cold War
The first wave of FTAs that swept the world economy during the 1950s – 80s is a perfect illustration of the geopolitical dimension of FTAs. Set against a Cold War backdrop, most the free trade agreements signed were meant to consolidate the agenda of its respective “bloc”. On its side, the Soviet bloc set the COMECON while, on the other side, each regional agreement deepening economic ties across Western Europe was seen as further protection against the Kremlin.
In the meantime, the Third World embraced free trade as a way to lessen its dependence on the Western and Soviet blocs. With decolonization on the way and high hopes for a “New International Economic Order”, FTAs were meant to strengthen the South’s economic standing by creating regional blocs and rebalancing trade relations with developed nations. This trend is embodied by the vast free trade agreements between the European Community and Developing countries in the 1960s and 70s such as the Yaoundé and Lomé agreements, as well as by the regional blocs of Third World nations created through the formation of common markets such as the African Common Market (1962) or the East Caribbean Common Market (1968). Although promising, most of these trading blocs, inspired by the European efforts, were dead by the early 1990s.
Looking at Egypt’s relation to FTAs also provides a good example of this historical use of FTAs to support the Third World. Throughout the 1950s and 60s, the country signed a series of FTAs in the hope of creating a regional Arab economic bloc, but also in an effort to strengthen its political ties with other “non-aligned” countries. Playing FTA VIS while focusing on Egypt makes this very clear starting from 1953 with the Arab Trade Convention. In 1964, Egypt signed the Arab Common Market and then in 1967 a tripartite agreement with India and Yugoslavia.
FTA VIS shows us the geopolitical and symbolic power of FTAs, used by the Third World to strengthen their geopolitical and economic stance. Looking at this period reminds us that, what is today considered as the spearhead of deep liberalism and market efficiency was once used to unify a broken post-WWII Europe and, in the Third World, embodied hopes of a fairer world trade order and global balance of power.
Interested in more FTA VIS data stories? Read our second data story here if you haven’t already and check back on Sunday for one more interesting story!