Cast Light and Evil Will Go Away: The Transparency Mechanism for Regional Trade Agreements Three Years After
Journal of World Trade, Vol. 43, No. 2, 2011
25 Pages Posted: 27 Jan 2011
Date Written: January 25, 2011
Our aim is to test the idea that the WTO’s ability to regulate RTAs is likely to decline with the proliferation of RTAs worldwide. According to this idea: (1) “people who live in glass houses should not throw stones”, (2) with the proliferation of RTAs, WTO members are likely to place their interests before the interests of the multilateral system, and (3) there would be fewer WTO members demanding stricter disciplines for RTA regulation. However, our finding is that WTO members have at least continued to accord attention to the problems associated with RTA proliferation, and they continue to engage in active scrutiny of individual RTAs. We are not saying that WTO members do not act in their own interest, or that they are motivated by altruism, but simply that such self-interest has not prevented scrutiny of RTAs under the new transparency mechanism. The proliferation of RTAs (and any felt need to protect one’s “own RTA programme”) has not prevented discussion on improved disciplines. Notwithstanding the intent underlying the establishment of the transparency mechanism – i.e. the prevention of another impasse caused by controversy over various “systemic issues” connected with questions of RTA compliance – WTO Members continue to discuss these issues in ways which demonstrate fidelity to important questions of principle and policy. One notable development, however, has been that East Asian members are no longer seen to be as prominent in expressing a strict approach towards RTA regulation as they were a decade ago.
Keywords: WTO, Transparency Mechanism, Regional Trade Agreements, Free Trade Agreement, Customs Union, GATT Article XXIV
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