The WTO and Regional Trading Agreements: Is it All Over for Multilateralism?
29 Pages Posted: 23 Dec 2015
Date Written: December 2015
The number of operative regional trading agreements (RTAs) has been rising steadily. This paper reviews the history of regionalism, and argues that the increasing focus of RTAs on nontariff measures and non-trade issues make the creation of coalitions of countries to pursue specific rather than global objectives easier. In the process important aspects of multilateralism threaten to be eroded. While the effects of RTAs to date in terms of trade discrimination appear to have been relatively benign, the process has been systemically harmful. This is illustrated most prominently by the post 2008 mega-regionals, which aim not just to manage trade relations between their members, but to control or circumvent the multilateral discussion of trade policy by creating coalitions of countries that can, more or less, dictate terms to other players.
Keywords: Regionalism; trade agreements; WTO; multilateral cooperation; China
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation