Regional trade agreements (ATRs) have multiplied over the years and have achieved, including a significant increase in major multilateral agreements being negotiated. Non-discrimination between trading partners is one of the fundamental principles of the WTO; However, reciprocal preferential agreements between two or more partners are one of the exceptions and are allowed by the WTO subject to a number of provisions. Information on WTO-notified ATRs is available in the RTA database. Other non-general preferential regimes, such as. B non-reciprocal preferential agreements, involving developing and industrialized countries, require members to request a waiver from WTO rules. These exceptions must be approved by three-quarters of WTO members. Examples of such agreements currently in force include the US Caribbean Basin Economic Recovery Act (CBERA), the CARIBCAN agreement, in which Canada provides non-reciprocal duty-free access to most Caribbean countries, Turkey`s preferential treatment for Bosnia and Herzegovina, and the EC-ACP partnership agreement. Whether it is bilateral trade pacts, major unions or continental trade agreements, all WTO members will have some kind of regional trade agreement in force from June 2016. Regional trade agreements are multiplying and changing their nature. In 1990, 50 trade agreements were in force.
In 2017, there were more than 280. In many trade agreements, negotiations today go beyond tariffs and cover several policy areas relating to trade and investment in goods and services, including rules that go beyond borders, such as competition policy, public procurement rules and intellectual property rights. ATRs, which cover tariffs and other border measures, are « flat » agreements; THE RTAs, which cover more policy areas at the border and at the back of the border, are « deep » agreements. These agreements have increased in number and complexity since the early 1990s. One of the most frequently asked questions is whether these regional groups support or hinder the multilateral trading system of WTOs. WTO members, who work on various committees, are working to address these concerns. To search for documents relating to regional trade agreements in the WTO`s online database, follow this link to access the WTO document database and insert the codes in the search engine icon. Reciprocal trade agreements between two or more partners that do not necessarily belong to the same region are considered a WTO ACCORD. From June 2016, all WTO members will now have an ATR in force. Documents, including factual information, on the various regional trade agreements notified to the WTO are available in the RTA database.