Largest network of Regional Trade Agreements: European Union

The European Union (EU) had the largest network of regional trade agreements (RTAs) in the world, with 44 agreements in force, according to the World Trade Organization (WTO).

During the past three years, the European Union signed and implemented the Trade and Cooperation Agreement with the United Kingdom following the latter’s exit from the European Union, and also concluded the accession of the Solomon Islands to the EU-Pacific States RTA.

The European Union also entered into negotiations to conclude new RTAs (with New Zealand, Australia and Indonesia) and to update or extend existing ones (e.g., with Chile and Mexico).

The EU sought to strengthen implementation and enforcement by establishing a new complaints mechanism – the Single Window, which creates an office for trade compliance and monitoring – and by strengthening the enforcement mechanism for the trade and sustainable development chapters of its RTAs.

Under its RTAs, the European Union has eliminated duties on between 78.4 and 99.9% of its tariff lines, compared to 27% of tariff lines under its MFN regime.

However, the majority of duty-free imports took place on an MFN basis.

Regional Trade Agreements

About half (55%) of the European Union’s total imports were duty-free on an MFN basis in 2021, and 15% of imports were duty-free under RTAs.

In addition to trade in goods, EU RTAs almost systematically (since 2010) contain provisions on liberalization of trade in services and investment, as well as on competition, e-commerce, government procurement, intellectual property and sustainable development (i.e. environment and labor).

In the period under review the main development in this field has been the signing and entry into force in 2021 of the EU-UK Trade and Cooperation Agreement.

Other developments include the entry into force of the RTAs that had been signed with Singapore and Vietnam, and the accession in May 2020 of the Solomon Islands to the EU-Pacific States RTA.

These four agreements (including accession) were notified to the WTO in 2020 and 2021.

The European Union has also notified the accession of the Comoros to the EU-East and Southern African States RTA, and that of Samoa to the EU-Pacific States RTA, which was already provisionally applied.


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