WTO members are allowed to conclude the RTA under certain conditions, defined in three sentences. These rules include the creation and operation of customs unions and free trade zones for trade in goods (Article XXIV of the 1994 General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade), regional or comprehensive agreements for trade in goods between developing countries (empowerment clause) and trade agreements on services (Article V of the General Agreement on Trade in Services). In general, ATRs must essentially cover all trade – unless they are subject to the enabling clause – and make trade between RTA countries freer without increasing trade barriers with the outside world. Regional trade agreements are multiplying and changing their nature. In 1990, 50 trade agreements were in force. In 2017, there were more than 280. In many trade agreements, negotiations today go beyond tariffs and cover several policy areas relating to trade and investment in goods and services, including rules that go beyond borders, such as competition policy, public procurement rules and intellectual property rights. ATRs, which cover tariffs and other border measures, are « flat » agreements; THE RTAs, which cover more policy areas at the border and at the back of the border, are « deep » agreements. Online Research Documents General documents relating to regional trade agreements carry the WT/REG document code. As part of the Doha Agenda trade negotiations mandate, they use TN/RL/O (additional values needed). These links open a new window: Allow a moment for the results to appear. Regional trade agreements (ATRs) appear to be in competition with the WTO, but they can often effectively support the WTO`s multilateral trading system. THE ATRs, which have been defined within the WTO as reciprocal preferential trade agreements between two or more partners, have enabled countries to negotiate rules and commitments that go beyond multilaterally.
In return, some of these rules have paved the way for an agreement within the WTO. Services, intellectual property, environmental standards, investment policy and competition policy are topics discussed in regional negotiations and subsequently developed on agreements or topics for discussion within the WTO. Non-discrimination is a fundamental principle of the WTO.