Plurilateral trade agreements and the impact on LDCs: To participate or not to participate?

South Africa - 13 March 2018

Trade topics: International Trading System

In the wake of the impasse in the Doha Development Round (DDR) of multilateral trade talks, a number of countries have been looking at alternative ways to advance their trade agendas – one of which involves the negotiation of plurilateral trade agreements (PTAs). PTAs are voluntary, sector-based agreements concluded between two or more WTO member countries. Although these agreements are negotiated outside of the WTO system they have the potential to ultimately be ‘multilateralised’ and applied to the full WTO membership. To date, PTAs have appealed to developed countries, with the uptake among developing countries (including LDCs) being limited. This paper investigates the factors contributing to this phenomenon and proposes ways in which developing countries could be encouraged to actively participate in plurilateral initiatives. Specific attention is given to four PTAs: Trade in Services Agreement (TiSA), Government Procurement Agreement (GPA), Environmental Goods Agreement (EGA) and Information Technology Agreement II (ITA-II).