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Trade Agreements in the Last 20 Years: Retrospect and Prospect


  • Beghin, John C
  • O'Donnell, Jill


We provide an overview of major developments in multi- and plurilateral trade agreements over the last 20 years with a focus on the implications for agricultural and food markets. We take stock of what has been accomplished in market integration, remaining obstacles to trade, events that have changed the trade landscape, and emerging issues. Agricultural tariffs have fallen through commitments made in the Uruguay Round Agreement on Agriculture and through the proliferation of regional trade agreements. Nevertheless agricultural trade remains distorted with some prohibitive tariffs. RTAs have achieved progress on nontariff measures and other beyond-the-border frictions. The WTO’s negotiations on agricultural distortions have stalled because of their complexity and divergent interests among WTO members. In addition, the dispute settlement mechanism of the WTO has been seriously impaired as its Appellate Body can no longer function. The WTO will have to adjust to a world of RTAs and use its tools and procedures to support the multilateral trading system through increasing transparency of RTAs and reporting on conformity with existing WTO agreements. The WTO can also use substitute tools to head off disputes using specific trade concern mechanisms, like those of the SPS and TBT committees.

Suggested Citation

  • Beghin, John C & O'Donnell, Jill, 2021. "Trade Agreements in the Last 20 Years: Retrospect and Prospect," Staff Papers 314115, University of Nebraska-Lincoln, Department of Agricultural Economics.
  • Handle: RePEc:ags:nbaesp:314115
    DOI: 10.22004/ag.econ.314115

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    International Relations/Trade;

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