The IMF Working Papers series is designed to make IMF staff research available to a wide audience. Almost 300 Working Papers are released each year, covering a wide range of theoretical and analytical topics, including balance of payments, monetary and fiscal issues, global liquidity, and national and international economic developments.
This paper explores the effectiveness of the Central European Free Trade Area (CEFTA) and the Baltic Free Trade Area (BFTA). Estimates from a gravity model and bilateral trade data support the view that both CEFTA and BFTA helped expand regional trade and limit the emergence of a "hub-and-spoke" relationship between the CEECs and the European Union (EU). These empirical conclusions carry some important policy implications for the "second wave" of prospective EU members among Southeastern European Countries (SEECs). The paper argues that the SEECs should reconsider their bilateral approach to trade liberalization and move towards a multilateral free-trade area as exemplified by both the CEFTA and BFTA.