Think Piece

RTA Exchange: Organising the World’s Information on Regional Trade Agreements

March 2014
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This think piece argues that the traditional approaches to monitor, constrain, and regulate RTAs are antiquated, both because WTO Members are not invested in such approaches, and because RTAs are on balance a positive force in the global trading system. Rather than being viewed as antithetical to the multilateral trading system, RTAs must be seen as an opportunity to accelerate and deepen global trade liberalisation and integration. What is lacking is a transmission mechanism between this aim and all the information, analysis, and collective international knowledge on RTAs. The piece calls for the formation of just such a mechanism—the RTA Exchange. The RTA Exchange as construed here is a first-in-class global venue for information sharing and idea generation on diverse practical and strategic aspects related to RTAs among a broad set of stakeholders. By mounting the Exchange, the WTO would regain relevance and authority in world trade. However, absent the WTO’s leadership, for now blocked by politics within it, the RTA Exchange would best be run by a consortium of partners with a common interest—to promote “open trade for the benefit of all.”

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