WTO members are allowed to conclude the RTA under certain conditions, defined in three sentences. These rules include the creation and operation of customs unions and free trade zones for trade in goods (Article XXIV of the 1994 General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade), regional or comprehensive agreements for trade in goods between developing countries (empowerment clause) and trade agreements on services (Article V of the General Agreement on Trade in Services). In general, ATRs must essentially cover all trade – unless they are subject to the enabling clause – and make trade between RTA countries freer without increasing trade barriers with the outside world. www.dti.gov.ph/dti/index.php/resources/trade-agreements www.ustr.gov/trade-agreements/free-trade-agreements Research by the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA) in November 2018 indicated that the implementation of the agreement would result in GDP growth of 1% and overall export growth of 3%. The greatest impact would be intra-African trade, which would reach more than 50% (and even more for some economies) depending on the ambition of liberalization. Provisions to be negotiated in the second stage, such as investment, competition and intellectual property rights, would further strengthen regional integration, Africa.To conclude that ATRs are likely to continue to increase in both numbers and coverage, while some aspects of RTA will continue to discriminate against third-party trade. They therefore remain the second best option compared to the multilateral rules that apply to all WTO members. However, some aspects of the ATR, particularly the rules, tend to be non-discriminatory and may therefore also be beneficial to non-RTA parties. Policymakers benefit from a closer look at the impact of both types of provisions on global trade relations and international trade rules. Regional trade agreements refer to a treaty signed by two or more countries to promote the free movement of goods and services beyond the borders of its members. The agreement contains internal rules that Member States comply with each other. As far as third countries are concerned, there are external rules to which members comply. Meanwhile, preferential trade agreements (EPAs) refer to unilateral trade privileges such as the Generalized Preference System (GSP) and non-reciprocal preferential programmes implemented by some WTO members for products from developing and least developed countries.
Information on preferential trade regimes notified to the WTO is available in the PTA database. Many ATRs contain elements that deepen regulatory cooperation and new market opportunities are created, even as participants address structural barriers in their own economies. Next-generation RTAs are working to go further. Countries wishing to participate in and benefit from global markets must increasingly integrate trade and investment measures into their broader national structural reforms. Indeed, countries may be able to use the current and future negotiations on the “beyond the border” regime as the engine of desired internal political reforms.