Edited by William A. Kerr and James D. Gaisford
Chapter 8: Overview of Trade Agreements: Regional Trade Agreements
Nicholas Perdikis Introduction The majority of WTO members are also participants in at least one regional trade agreement (RTA). The popularity of RTAs among trading nations is not in doubt. Since the early 1980s there has been a surge in their number. The WTO claims that 250 RTAs were notiﬁed to it by the end of 2002. Of these 130 were ratiﬁed after 1995 with an additional 70 in operation but not yet ratiﬁed. The WTO estimates that by the end of 2005 if the RTAs that are planned or under negotiation come on stream the total number in existence could be in the region of 300 (WTO 2004 a,b,c,d). This chapter will examine the reasons behind this growth, their relationship to and the potential eﬀect on the multilateral trading system, and the way GATT/WTO rules have dealt with them. The scope of Regional Trade Agreements (RTAs) The Dictionary of Trade Policy Terms describes Regionalism or the process by which RTAs come about as ‘actions of governments to liberalise or facilitate trade on a regional basis, sometimes through free trade areas or customs unions’. The WTO deﬁnition is, however, both more speciﬁc and more general. It is more speciﬁc because its provisions relate to the conditions of preferential trade liberalization. The meaning is more general because RTAs may be concluded between countries that are not geographically proximate (WTO, 2004e). RTAs can vary in both their coverage and in the depth...
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