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Mapping of Safeguard Provisions in Regional Trade Agreements

This study surveys safeguard provisions on trade in goods in 232 regional trade agreements (RTAs) notified to the GATT/WTO up to 31 December 2012. In particular, it identifies those RTAs that modify the conditions applicable to the RTA partner (either substantively or procedurally) in the event that a global safeguard is invoked.

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In the case of bilateral (or intra-RTA safeguards), the study analyses provisions governing injury assessment, causation, conditions for the invocation of a measure and the types of measures that may be employed. We use the yardstick of GATT Article XIX and the WTO Safeguards Agreement to determine whether the provisions applicable to bilateral safeguard measures are more or less stringent than the corresponding multilateral rules. The study also includes an inventory of infant industry, balance of payments, and special safeguards applicable to agricultural products found in RTAs.

We demonstrate through various examples that safeguard provisions have become more prescriptive in recent years, though little homogeneity in their design is found even for a given country. In the case of global safeguards, roughly a quarter of RTAs provide for the possible exclusion of the RTA partner, subject to certain criteria, thus discriminating against non-parties. In the case of bilateral safeguards, some RTAs use looser language to define the trigger mechanism to invoke a safeguard and to determine injury standards, thus potentially offering greater scope to use such measures. We found wide variety in the types of bilateral safeguard measures that are permitted in RTAs. A number of more recent RTAs tighten the conditions for application of a bilateral safeguard through limiting the duration of the safeguard measure, allowing the use of tariff-based measures only, and binding the use of the measure to the transition period. Other RTAs specify neither the length of the bilateral safeguard measure nor the conditions for its reapplication, thus providing greater scope to impose such measures than in the multilateral context.


No: ERSD-2013-10

Authors: Jo-Ann Crawford, Jo McKeagg, and Julia Tolstova

Manuscript date: October 2013

Key Words:

Regional Trade Agreements, safeguards

JEL classification numbers:

F13, F15, F53

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This is a working paper, and hence it represents research in progress. This paper represents the opinions of the author, and is the product of professional research. It is not meant to represent the position or opinions of the WTO or its Members, nor the official position of any staff members. Any errors are the fault of the author. Copies of working papers can be requested from the divisional secretariat by writing to: Economic Research and Statistics Division, World Trade Organization, Rue de Lausanne 154, CH 1211 Geneva 21, Switzerland. Please request papers by number and title.

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