Wto Bilateral Agreements

Posted on April 16, 2021

Whether it is bilateral trade pacts, major unions or continental trade agreements, all WTO members will have some kind of regional trade agreement in force from June 2016. It is important to note, however, that these agreements are very different in terms of breadth and depth, the impact on trade and the potential impact on the multilateral trading system. For much of the post-war period, the United States accepted European integration efforts on foreign policy grounds, but it itself avoided bilateral and regional trade agreements. In the early 1980s, the United States became increasingly frustrated by the failure to open new GATT negotiations to address unresolved issues during the Tokyo Round (1973-1979). U.S. negotiators concluded the first bilateral free trade agreement with Israel in 1984, and then began negotiations that culminated in a more economically important free trade agreement with Canada in 1988. 12 it was extended to Mexico a few years later and transformed into the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). The United States is now the partners of 14 free trade agreements with 20 countries. With the exception of 1990, all agreements were concluded with Israel and Canada, including 12 with neighbours in North and South America (Canada and Mexico; five Central American countries, plus the Dominican Republic); Colombia, Panama and Peru). In North Africa and the Middle East, there is a negotiated rally after the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001 on the American continent (Bahrain, Jordan, Morocco and Oman), as well as on Australia, the Republic of Korea and Singapore. If President Donald Trump had not rejected the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) when he took office in 2017, that figure would have risen to 25 (Brunei, Japan, Malaysia, New Zealand and Vietnam, as well as six others with which the United States had already entered into free trade agreements). President Trump has also abandoned negotiations on a Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) launched by his predecessor Barack Obama. The beginning of regionalism coincided with the creation of the World Trade Organization (WTO), which aimed to institutionalize and enforce more effectively the rules and negotiation processes of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT).

Concerns about the impact of regional trade agreements (ATRs) on the multilateral trading system include the potential of excluded parties to suffer trade losses, as well as broader issues of systemic effects. The GATT and WTO rules aim to mitigate potential negative effects, but the central question remains: can multilateralism and regionalism coexist peacefully? In February 2006, WTO members established a committee of regional trade agreements that reviews Article XXIV agreements, develops procedures for more effective financing and “examines the systemic impact of these agreements … multilateral trading system and the relationship between them.”


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