Handbooks of Research on International Political Economy series
Edited by David Deese
Chapter 22: The design of social standards in EU and US preferential trade agreements
Preferential trade agreements (PTAs) have become ubiquitous in the global trade order. Their quick proliferation has been the direct result of the failure of multilateral trade negotiations in the late 1990s and early 2000s. Trade liberalization is easier to achieve at the bilateral or regional level, and many countries have opted for signing bilateral PTAs with their trading partners. Modern trade agreements can serve various purposes, in addition to trade liberalization, and can differ in terms of the scope of issue coverage, the degree of legal binding, and enforcement mechanisms. Recent PTAs signed by various states not only remove tariff and non-tariff barriers to trade but also try to tackle various regulatory aspects extending beyond just trade liberalization. Trade-related issues, such as investment, competition policy, intellectual property rights, labor rights and environmental standards, have become an integral part of PTAs, especially those signed by the developed states. These issues are termed the deep-trade agenda or WTO-extra, as they require a level of commitment going beyond the WTO requirements and cover areas not included in the multilateral trade regime (Horn et al. 2010). Sometimes they are also referred to as behind-the-border provisions, since they target domestic laws of agreement signatories, requiring the harmonization or mutual recognition of standards.
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