Regional Trade Agreements (RTAs) have become a very prominent feature of the Multilateral Trading System (MTS) in recent years. There has been a surge in the number of RTAs since early 1990s. About 380 RTAs have been notified to the GATT/WTO up to July 2007. Of these, 300 RTAs were notified under Article XXIV of the GATT 1947 or GATT 1994; 22 under the Enabling Clause; and 58 under Article V of the GATS. 205 Agreements were in force as on July 2007.
The General Council of WTO has recently established transparency mechanism for RTAs. The mechanism of new transparency has been established on a provisional basis on 14th December, 2006. The decision is contained in WTO document WT/L/671 dated 18th December, 2006. The salient aspects of the new Transparency Mechanism are :-
- The new transparency mechanism provides for early announcement of any RTA and notification to the WTO.
- Members will consider the notified RTAs on the basis of a factual presentation by the WTO Secretariat.
- The Committee on Regional Trade Agreements (CRTA) is entrusted with the implementation of Transparency Mechanism for RTAs falling under Article XXIV of General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) 1994 and Article V of the General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS).
- The Committee on Trade and Development (CTD) will look after the implementation of Transparency Mechanism of RTAs falling under paragraph 2(c) of the Enabling Clause (trade arrangements between developing countries).
- The transparency mechanism is to be implemented on a provisional basis. Members will review, and if necessary modify, the decision, and replace it by a permanent mechanism adopted as part of the overall results of the Doha Round. Members will also review the legal relationship between this mechanism and relevant WTO provisions related to RTAs.