Regional trade agreements (ATRs) are an important part of international trade relations. Over the years, ATRs have increased not only in number, but also in depth and complexity. WTO members and the secretariat are working to gather information and encourage discussions on ATRs in order to increase transparency and improve understanding of its impact on the broader multilateral trading system. The other tasks of the CRTA are to examine how the necessary reports on the implementation of the agreements should be carried out and to develop procedures to facilitate and improve the audit process. The CRTA is also responsible for examining the systemic impact of ATRs on the multilateral trading system and on the relationship between them. THE WTO agreements recognize that ATRs can benefit countries as long as their objective is to facilitate trade between their contracting parties. They also recognize that, in certain circumstances, these agreements could harm the commercial interests of other countries. Normally, the creation of a customs union or free trade area would be contrary to the principle of non-discrimination of all WTO members (“the most favoured nation”). However, Article 24 of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT), Article 5 of the General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS) and the Enabling Clause (paragraph 2, point c) allow WTO members to enter into ATRs as a specific exception, provided that certain strict criteria are met. 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. Other non-general preferential regimes, such as.
B non-reciprocal preferential agreements, involving developing and industrialized countries, require members to request a waiver from WTO rules. These exceptions must be approved by three-quarters of WTO members. Examples of such agreements currently in force include the US Caribbean Basin Economic Recovery Act (CBERA), the CARIBCAN agreement, in which Canada provides non-reciprocal duty-free access to most Caribbean countries, Turkey`s preferential treatment for Bosnia and Herzegovina, and the EC-ACP partnership agreement. Non-discrimination is a fundamental principle of the WTO. Members generally committed not to favour one trading partner over another. An exception to this rule are the RTAs. These transactions are inherently discriminatory, as only their signatories benefit from more favourable market access conditions. WTO members recognize the legitimate role of RTA, which aims to facilitate trade between its parties, but which would not create barriers to trade vis-à-vis third parties.
When a WTO member enters into a regional integration agreement in which it provides more favourable terms for its trade with other contracting parties than other WTO members, it departs from the guiding principle of non-discrimination defined in Article I of the GATT, Article II of the GATS and elsewhere. In addition, the increase in RTA has come to an end to the overlapping phenomenon of membership. This can hinder trade flows when traders struggle to meet multiple sets of trade rules. As the scope of the ATR extends to areas of action that are not regulated multilaterally, the risk of inconsistencies between the various agreements may be increased. Most of the previous ATRs involved tariff liberalization and related rules, such as trade defence, standards and rules of origin. Increasingly, ATRs have adopted the liberalization of services as well as obligations on service rules, investment, competition, intellectual property rights, e-commerce, environment and work. This could result in regulatory confusion and implementation problems. In the meantime, preferential trade agreements (EPAs) refer to privileges