Topics handled by WTO committees and agreements
Issues covered by the WTO’s committees and agreements

Regional trade agreements

Regional trade agreements (RTAs) have become increasingly prevalent since the early 1990s. As of15 June 2014, some 585 notifications of RTAs (counting goods, services and accessions separately) had been received by the GATT/WTO. Of these, 379 were in force. What all RTAs in the WTO have in common is that they are reciprocal trade agreements between two or more partners. Information on RTAs notified to the WTO is available in the RTA Database.

The WTO also receives notifications from WTO members regarding preferential trade arrangements (PTAs). In the WTO, PTAs are unilateral trade preferences. Information on PTAs notified to the WTO is available in the PTA Database.

See also
Negotiations on RTAsClick for Doha Development Agenda gateway
> Transparency Mechanism on RTAs
> RTA Database
Negotiations, implementation and development: the Doha agenda

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See also:
The Rules Negotiations



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News  back to top


Introduction  back to top

Scope of RTAs

> See also: Regionalism — friends or rivals?
Explanation from “Understanding the WTO”, the introduction to the WTO.


The mandate  back to top

The WTO’s rules on regional trade agreements

A brief explanation

Text of GATT Art XXIV, Ad Art XXIV and its updates, including the 1994 “Understanding”.

Enabling Clause for developing countries.
Text of the 1979 GATT decision allowing preferential trade in goods among developing countries.

Text of GATS Article V

Find decisions of WTO bodies concerning the regional trade agreements in the Analytical Index — Guide to WTO Law and Practice

Click for Doha Development Agenda gatewayThe Doha negotiating mandate
Section on regional trade agreements in the 2001 Doha Ministerial Declaration

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Examples of regional trade agreements

Among the best known are 

- The European Union, 

- The European Free Trade Association (EFTA),  

- The North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA),  

- The Southern Common Market (MERCOSUR), 

- The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Free Trade Area (AFTA), and  

- The Common Market of Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA). 


There are many others. 

RTA Database


Transparency Mechanism for RTAs
> Dedicated webpage on the Decision of 14 December 2006

Text of the 2006 General Council Decision on the Transparency Mechanism for Regional Trade Agreements


Facts and figures  back to top

As of 15 June 2014, some 585 notifications of RTAs (counting goods, services and accessions separately) had been received by the GATT/WTO. Of these, 412 notifications were made under Article XXIV of the GATT 1947 or GATT 1994; 39 under the Enabling Clause; and 134 under Article V of the GATS. Of these 585 RTAs, 379 were in force.

The overall number of RTAs in force has been increasingly steadily, a trend likely to be strengthened by the many RTAs currently under negotiations. Of these RTAs, Free Trade Agreements (FTAs) and partial scope agreements account for 90%, while customs unions account for 10%.

For up-to-date information on WTO figures on RTAs currently in force, please consult the summary tables contained in the RTA Database.

These WTO figures correspond to 436 physical RTAs (counting goods, services and accessions together), of which 249 are currently in force.

> See also Transparency Mechanism communications (early announcements of RTAs, notifications of changes, etc.)


Work on regional trade agreements in the WTO, and official documents  back to top

Work on this subject is handled by the Committee on Regional Trade Agreements, which reports to the Goods Council.

The WTO’s Committee on Regional Trade Agreements

Search Documents Online
General documents on regional trade agreements bear the document code WT/REG/*. Under the Doha agenda’s trade negotiations mandate, they use TN/RL/* (where * takes additional values).
These links open a new window: allow a moment for the results to appear.

help with downloading these documents

  • Annual reports of the Committee on Regional Trade Agreements to the General Council (Document code WT/REG/* and keyword “report”)    > search
  • Minutes of the meetings of the Committee on Regional Trade Agreements (Document code WT/REG/M/*)    > search
  • Working documents of the Committee on Regional Trade Agreements (Document code WT/REG/W/*)  
      > search
  • General documents (Document code “varies”)    > search

> See also RTA negotiations documents

You can perform more sophisticated searches from the Documents Online search facility (opens in new window) by defining multiple search criteria such as document symbol (i.e. code number), full text search or document date.


Special events


Analysis and publications  back to top

  • WTO Staff Working Paper: Mapping of Dispute Settlement Mechanisms in Regional Trade Agreements — Innovative or Variations on a Theme?


Other Resources / Databases of interest   back to top


Contact Point:  back to top

Regional Trade Agreements Section
+41 (0)22 7396430
+41 (0)22 739 5774

External links