Regional trade agreements (ATRs) now cover more than half of international trade and operate alongside global multilateral agreements under the World Trade Organization (WTO). In recent years, many countries have actively sought to conclude new bilateral and regional trade agreements, often more modern and progressive, aimed at boosting trade and economic growth. The current release of the RTA partly reflects the need for deeper integration than has been achieved through previous multilateral agreements. 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. Deep trade agreements are an important institutional infrastructure for regional integration. They reduce business costs and set many rules in which economies are active. If designed effectively, they can improve political cooperation between countries and thus promote international trade and international investment, economic growth and social well-being.

World Bank Group Surveys: Online Research Documents General documents relating to regional trade agreements carry the WT/REG/W/REG document code. As part of the Doha Agenda trade negotiations mandate, they use TN/RL/O (additional values needed). These links open a new window: Allow a moment for the results to appear. Today, ATRs are evolving in a way that goes beyond existing multilateral rules. The areas that cover them – investment, capital and people, competition and state-owned enterprises, e-commerce, anti-corruption and intellectual property rights – are key policy issues that need to be addressed in today`s more interconnected markets. Mega-regional initiatives are of a completely new scale and allow preferential access to Member States` markets by attempting to conclude 21st century trade agreements with deep and comprehensive market integration. “As a result, these agreements are increasingly defining new rules that govern trade between their parties and are not extended to all other WTO members. In addition, some of these issues are not regulated by the WTO in international trade.

The inclusion of these provisions indicates that there is a growing divergence between existing WTO and ATR rules.