Regional trade agreements

Regional trade agreements (RTAs) have risen in number and reach over the years, including a notable increase in large plurilateral agreements under negotiation. Following the notification of the RTA between Mongolia and Japan in June 2016, all WTO members now have an RTA in force.

Non-discrimination among trading partners is one of the core principles of the WTO; however, RTAs constitute one of the exemptions and are authorized under the WTO, subject to a set of rules. In line with these rules, and also recognizing the need to enhance transparency and increase understanding of RTAs' impact on interests of WTO members, the WTO Secretariat was instructed by WTO members to gather information on RTAs. The organization also provides a forum for discussions on the implications of RTAs for the wider multilateral trading system.

What all RTAs in the WTO have in common is that they are reciprocal preferential 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.

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News 

  

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Introduction

Brief explanation

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

  

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Facts and figures

As of 20 June 2017, 279 RTAs were in force. These correspond to 445 notifications from WTO members, counting goods, services and accessions separately.

 

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Transparency Mechanism for RTAs

WTO members agreed in 2006 to implement a provisional mechanism to enhance the transparency of RTAs and understand their effects on the multilateral system. Under this process, members notify the WTO about their RTAs and these are discussed by the wider WTO membership on the basis of a factual presentation prepared by the WTO Secretariat.

At the 10th Ministerial Conference in Nairobi in 2015, WTO members agreed to work towards the transformation of the provisional mechanism into a permanent mechanism without prejudice to questions related to notification requirements.

 

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

  • Documents on Regional Trade Agreements by Country (Document code WT/REG/*)   > search
  • Notifications of Regional Trade Agreements (Document code WT/REG*/N/*)   > search
  • Factual Presentations on Regional Trade Agreements(Document code WT/REG* and keyword “Factual presentation”) 
    > search
  • Questions and Replies on Regional Trade Agreements(Document code RD/RTA* or WT/REG* and keyword “Questions and replies”) 
    > search

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

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.

  

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Committee on Regional Trade Agreements

The Committee on Regional Trade Agreements considers individual regional agreements and is also mandated to hold discussions on the systemic implications of the agreements for the multilateral trading system. The Committee on Trade and Development also implements the Transparency Mechanism for RTAs between developing countries.

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

 

Negotiations on RTAs

Negotiations to clarify and improve WTO disciplines on RTAs fall under the work of the Negotiating Group on Rules, which reports to the Trade Negotiations Committee.

 

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WTO rules on regional trade agreements

The WTO’s rules on regional trade agreements:

 

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Recent working papers and publications

 

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Recent events

  

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Other Resources / Databases of interest  

 

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Contact Point: 

Regional Trade Agreements Section
rta@wto.org
+41 (0)22 7396430
+41 (0)22 739 5774

 

Recent RTA developments

 

 

Committee meetings