UNCTAD Meeting: RTAs and the Multilateral Trading System, 15-16 March 2007
Trudi Hartzenberg, tralac’s Executive Director, attended a meeting in Geneva on RTAs and the Multilateral Trading System. This meeting reviewed experiences from different regions, and also focused on the interface between the Multilateral System and RTAs. Key issues reviewed include the debate over whether RTAs are building blocks or stumbling blocks to the multilateral trading system, as well as developments such as the Decision of 14 December 2006 on the Transparency Mechanism for RTAs. For the ACP region, the EPAs were a key focus area.
Regional trade agreements (RTAs) have proliferated worldwide to become a prominent feature of today’s international trade environment. This trend is likely to continue, affecting both the multilateral trading system (MTS) and the development strategies of developing countries that need access to foreign market access and a predictable framework for trade if they are to achieve economic growth.
This increased tendency for countries to negotiate regional trade agreements is sited as one of the reasons that progress on the Doha Round has slowed.
Against this backdrop, the Meeting addressed:
- recent trends in RTAs and their developmental and systemic implications
- specific market access issues in regional trade negotiations in goods and services
- regulatory provisions including intellectual property rights, investment and competition policies
- South-South trade integration and cooperation
- The interaction between RTAs and the MTS, and possible synergies and complementarities between the two processes.
By bringing together trade officials and other stakeholders – each of whom have their own views and perspectives – the Meeting generated policy-oriented discussion based on research findings and regional experiences.