There are currently 305 Regional Trade Agreements (RTA) in force and notified to the World Trade Organization (WTO), covering goods, services or goods and services.
The number of notifications -494- is higher because the Regional Trade Agreements that have aspects of goods and services require two notifications, according to the WTO rules.
Likewise, the Deputy Director General of the WTO, Alan Wolff, stated that there are also adhesions to Regional Trade Agreements and these must be notified.
At a virtual event organized by the American Association of Exporters and Importers, Wolff noted that a recent program from the WTO Committee on Regional Trade Agreements meeting can provide insight into the variety of parties involved in RTAs.
The Free Trade Agreement between Japan and the member states of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) was reviewed; the Free Trade Agreement between Hong Kong, China and the Republic of Georgia; the Free Trade Agreement between Peru and Honduras; and the Free Trade Agreement between GUAM and the participating States: the Republic of Moldova, Azerbaijan, Georgia and Ukraine.
Regional Trade Agreements
The motivations for signing these FTAs vary. In the case of the United States, according to the website of the United States Trade Representative, there are 20 FTAs in force. There was no single set of unifying criteria for entering into these agreements.
In particular, the T-MEC is a regional agreement with neighbors, who have common borders and have a large amount of cross-border trade.
Some US FTAs were entered into primarily for geopolitical reasons, for example, in support of the Middle East peace process. Previous FTAs emerged for no deeper reason than to give two heads of state something to announce at a bilateral meeting of heads of state. The last US agreements under negotiation are with Japan and Kenya.
There are some other relatively recent Regional Trade Agreements that are noteworthy, according to Wolff:
The Comprehensive and Progressive Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (CPTPP) is a free trade agreement between 11 countries in the Asia-Pacific region: Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore and Vietnam.
The United States actively negotiated the TPP and withdrew prior to ratification. Currently, the CPTPP is in effect for seven of the 11 Parties.
The African Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA) now has 30 member countries that have deposited their instruments of ratification with the African Union Commission.
Those AU members are Ghana, Kenya, Rwanda, Niger, Chad, Republic of the Congo, Djibouti, Guinea, Eswatini, Mali, Mauritania, Namibia, South Africa, Uganda, Ivory Coast (Côte d’Ivoire), Senegal, Togo, Egypt, Ethiopia. , Gambia, Sierra Leone, Sahrawi Republic, Zimbabwe, Burkina Faso, São Tomé and Príncipe, Gabon, Equatorial Guinea, Mauritius, Cameroon and Angola.
A total of 55 countries are expected to join and preferential trade to start from January 1, 2021.
The EU-Mercosur Agreement, not yet in force, covers the 27 members of the European Community (Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, Republic of Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, the Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain and Sweden), along with Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay and Uruguay.
This will be one of 75 trade agreements that the EU has negotiated, of which 55 are in force and have been notified to the WTO; the vast majority are free trade agreements, and include customs unions, for example with Turkey.
The main prospective Regional Trade Agreements include:
The Regional Comprehensive Economic Association (RCEP): a proposed free trade agreement between the ten member states of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN: Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam and five of the ASEAN FTA partners: Australia, China, Japan, New Zealand and South Korea. India originally was also part of the negotiations, but has since left, although the door remains open for it to rejoin.
The Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) between the United States and the European Union (currently not under negotiation).