Forget About the WTO: The Network of Relations between Preferential Trade Agreements (PTAs) and 'Double PTAs'
39 Pages Posted: 6 Feb 2014 Last revised: 30 May 2014
Date Written: February 5, 2014
The very definition of "preferential trade agreements" (PTAs) channels our almost exclusive attention to the relation between PTAs and the WTO. Successive PTAs between the same countries -- which we call "double PTAs" -- have largely escaped legal scrutiny. Think of the United States and Mexico first concluding NAFTA and then the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) or other "mega-regionals" currently under negotiation such as the COMESA-EAC-SADC Tripartite in Africa or Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) in Asia. We offer four reasons why the limits imposed by WTO rules on PTAs and plurilateral trade agreements must not be overrated. This should redirect attention away from the WTO-PTA relation toward relations between PTAs. We then describe the current network of PTAs in force, its structure and centrality features -- using basic methods of network analysis -- and also assesses the frequency of "double PTAs". Next we analyse the possible reasons to conclude "double PTAs" and assess ways in which successive PTAs involving the same countries can inter-relate in legal terms.
Keywords: regional trade agreements, plurilateral trade agreements, WTO, network analysis, relation between treaties, fragmentation of international law, multilateralising regionalism
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