Termites in the Trading System: How Preferential Agreements Undermine Free Trade

By Jagdish N. Bhagwati

38 ratings - 3.71* vote

Jagdish Bhagwati, the internationally renowned economist who uniquely combines a reputation as the leading scholar of international trade with a substantial presence in public policy on the important issues of the day, shines here a critical light on Preferential Trade Agreements, revealing how the rapid spread of PTAs endangers the world trading system.Numbering by now we Jagdish Bhagwati, the internationally renowned economist who uniquely combines a reputation as the leading scholar of

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Book details

Hardcover, 139 pages
July 14th 2008 by Oxford University Press, USA

(first published January 1st 2008)

Original Title
Termites in the Trading System
0195331656 (ISBN13: 9780195331653)
Edition Language

Community Reviews

Felipe Flores Pinto

A short book but quite informative This is a short but very well written and informative book on international trade and one of the best texts I have ever read on preferential trade agreements.


This book fed my desire to dork out and do more academic reading. While a small book, Bhagwati packs this book full of analysis on the current system of global trade.

He makes valuable insights into the false premise that Free Trade Agreements (FTAs) are promoting of free trade. He argues that the ubiquity of these FTAs have made trade less fair and free; they are the so called 'termites' in the system. He also harps on the role that economic unions, such as the EU, play in limited the free flow of goods and services. However, he does not take the logical step and condemn the EU in its structuring of its customs union, and it's disheartening to see him come to the edge but not make the final, logical, step.

Bhagwati provides extensive citation and further reading for those interested in knowing more. While the book is short, the writing is quite dense, and while Bhagwati thinks he's being extremely witty, at times the book is a slog. I enjoyed it very much, but caution that only those who actually find this stuff interesting should venture forth, otherwise, it's a pass.


Not my cup of tea, but this is a complex (but easy to read) BRIEFING on free trade's benefits, how free trade today actually isn't, and what to do about it. This book was made for the everyman, so check it out if you're interested in this topic; it's short.


Very academic language (I thought) and full of opinion, but also highly informative. I agree with Mr. Bhagwati's position here.


Pretty easy to understand book about the global trading system. Bhagwati writes in a manner that makes the book interesting, which is saying a lot for an economist :)