Chapter 6: Rabbits Caught in the Headlights? Africa and the ‘Multilateralizing Regionalism’ Paradigm
6. Rabbits caught in the headlights? Africa and the “multilateralizing regionalism” paradigm* Peter Draper and Mzukisi Qobo 6.1 INTRODUCTION Regionalism emerged as a global policy concern during the Uruguay Round of multilateral trade negotiations, towards the end of the 1980s. Before then it had comfortably co-existed alongside the multilateral trading system. The stability of the system hinged strongly on the leadership that the US provided since the early days of the GATT until the late 1980s. It was only when the US turned to regionalism that the edifice of the multilateral system began to experience tremors, and regionalism started becoming a threat to the functioning and credibility of the multilateral trading system. The stumbling block/building block metaphor widely credited to the Columbia University scholar, Jagdish Bhagwati (1991), reflected the anxiety that the rapid spread of regionalism caused. In the Sutherland Commission report for the World Trade Organization (WTO), the relationship between regional trade agreements (RTAs) and the multilateral trading system is discussed extensively, although it has very little to say about those involving developing countries. The report is extremely cautionary about RTAs, suggesting that some of their agendas “might lead the WTO to a wrong direction” (WTO, 2004, p. 19). It further argues that the administration of these schemes is complicated by their preferential rules of origin and with particularly onerous costs for small corporations and traders, and hence for developing countries (ibid., p. 22). Despite these misgivings, it is now widely accepted that RTAs are here to stay and...
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