Regional Trade Agreements: A Strike at Multilateralism?


The Doha Round of negotiations of the World Trade Organization has become a major battleground between developed and developing countries. Begun in 2001, the Doha negotiations have yet to be concluded, leading to widespread frustration on its sluggish pace. Meanwhile, new Regional Trade Agreements have been launched, begging the question: Has trade governance reached a critical junction,with one path leading to the strengthening of the multilateral principles of global trade, and the other, to the abandoning of these principles and the evolution of a different constitution for 21st-century multilateralism? This paper reviews literature and legal text to deduce answers to these questions. It analyses the relationship between the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) and Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA), and trade multilateralism. The paper finds that RTAs can be seen as a strike at multilateralism and this, in turn, can be regarded as either a negative or positive direction, depending on what principles and objectives are held as the legitimate building blocks of trade multilateralism.