Preferential trade agreements and agricultural trade liberalization in Asia and the Pacific
The paper addresses preferential trade agreements in Asia and the Pacific with the objective of identifying their characteristics which can be useful in assessing the effects of their implementation. The paper relies mostly on the Asia-Pacific Trade and Investment Agreements Database (APTIAD) in sourcing data and information for analysis. On 26 February 2007 APTIAD was tracking 125 preferential trade agreements one party of which was a member of ESCAP. Eighty seven of those agreements of various types are in force, 62 of them being bilateral agreements, 11 regional trade agreements (RTAs), and 11 country-bloc agreements (the residual is made up of agreements of different scope, i.e. global and country-plurilateral.). The paper utilizes information on membership and coverage of agreements as well as statistical data on goods trade flows in discussing selected important aspects of preferential trade in Asia and the Pacific: (a) the rapid proliferation of preferential trade and revealed preference for bilateral links; (b) strong tolerance for engagement in multiple trade agreements with the same trading partner; and (c) reluctance to commit to full and quick liberalization in merchandise trade, or expose other than industrial goods trade areas to preferential liberalization. The extent of liberalization of trade in agricultural goods through the PTAs in the region is focus of a separate section which also briefly discusses “new” arguments for agricultural trade protectionism in developing countries. Penultimate section discusses the ways in which PTAs could be harnessed to work as complementary with the multilateral trading regime. Some policy recommendations are offered as well.
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