Regional Trade Agreements Vs. Multilateral Trading System

Rohini Acharya is an advisor to the World Trade Organization. She holds a PhD in Economics and joined the WTO`s Trade Policy Review Department in 1996, where she became Head of the Regional Trade Agreements Section in January 2007. Previously, she worked as a Senior Research Fellow in the International Economics Programme at the Royal Institute of International Affairs (Chatham House) in London. His work at the WTO has been the trade policy review of several WTO members, including Australia, Egypt, India, New Zealand and Singapore, as well as the first review of China`s trade policy. Regional trade agreements (SAAs) appear to be in competition with the WTO, but they can often support the WTO`s multilateral trading system. SAAs, defined in the WTO as reciprocal preferential trade agreements between two or more partners, have enabled countries to negotiate rules and commitments that go beyond what was multilaterally possible. Some of these rules, meanwhile, paved the way for an agreement within the WTO. Services, intellectual property, environmental standards, investment policy and competition policy have all been discussed in regional negotiations and have subsequently been developed into agreements or topics for discussion in the WTO. Australia participates in two regional trade agreements currently being negotiated in Asia: the US-led TPP and the ASEAN-focused RCEP. This is a very busy business agenda, characterised by complex, overlapping – and sometimes competitive – initiatives. Given the limited bureaucratic and diplomatic resources, it would be both difficult and inadvisable to distribute efforts equitably across the range of proposals. The Abbott government reaffirmed its focus on bilateral agreements and promised to restart talks with Japan and Korea and conclude a free trade agreement with China within 12 months. Bilateral free trade agreements became popular in the early 2000s.

The Howard government has begun FTA talks with eight trading partners, three of which were completed during their tenure. This volume contains a series of studies that examine trade-related issues negotiated in Regional Trade Agreements (SAAs) and how IAAs relate to WTO rules. While previous work has focused on partial amounts of SE, these studies are based on the largest dataset ever used and highlight key issues negotiated in all IAAs notified to the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) and the World Trade Organization (WTO). The new rules within the SAAs are compared to the rules agreed by WTO members. The extent of their divergences and its potential impact on SAA parties and WTO members that are not saa parties will be examined. This volume makes an important contribution to the current debate on the role of the WTO in regulating international trade and how WTO rules relate to new rules developed by saAs. They also represent the boring “spaghetti bowl problem” of creating a complex set of overlapping and inconsistent rules that undermine the integrity of the global trading system. . . .