Regional Trade Agreements Vs. Multilateral Trading System

These agreements have increased in number and complexity since the early 1990s. One of the most frequently asked questions is whether these regional groups support or hinder the multilateral trading system of WTOs. WTO members, who work on various committees, are working to address these concerns. In this context, a regional approach such as the TPP is attractive. Easier to negotiate than a WTO agreement, but still important enough to have a significant impact, the TPP probably offers Australia the best hope of accelerating trade liberalization. They also represent the “spaghetti-bowl problem” that is a problem of creating a complex set of overlapping and inconsistent rules that undermine the integrity of the global trading system. Bilateral free trade agreements became popular in the early 2000s. The Howard government has launched free trade agreements with eight trading partners, three of which were concluded during its mandate. Ideally, multilateralism is the best strategy for actually liberalizing trade. But the WTO`s Doha Round has stalled and a small economy like Australia may lack the strength to move the talks forward wisely. Regional free trade agreements are sometimes seen as trade agents – simpler than multilateralism, but more substantial than bilateral agreements. Indeed, proponents of regionalism have also called it an element in which multilateral agreements can be concluded at a later date.

Trade regionalism increased in the 1990s with the creation of the Mercosur Block (1991), the ASEAN Free Trade Area (1992) and NAFTA (1994). This volume includes a collection of studies that examine trade-related issues negotiated in regional trade agreements (ATRs) and how ATRs are linked to WTO rules. While previous work has focused on subsets of RTA, these studies were probably based on the largest dataset used to date and reported key issues negotiated in all ATRs notified to the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) and the World Trade Organization (WTO). The new rules within the RTA will be compared to the rules agreed by WTO members. The extent of their differences and their potential impact on the parties to the ATR as well as wto members who are not parties to the ATR will be examined. This volume makes an important contribution to the current debate on the WTO`s role in regulating international trade and how WTO rules relate to the new rules developed by the ATRs. The Abbott government has again issued and promised to restart talks with Japan and Korea and conclude a free trade agreement with China within 12 months. In particular, agreements should help to make trade between ATR countries freer without barriers to trade with the outside world. In other words, regional integration should complement, not threaten, the multilateral trading system. With the WTO deadlocked, attention is focused on bilateral free trade agreements.

These agreements, which were virtually unheard of before the mid-1990s, have grown exponentially over the past decade as governments attempt to deepen trade relations with important economic partners.

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