The Coherence of Multi-Level Negotiations: Challenges for Developing Countries

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UNU Insitute on Comparative Regional Integration Studies
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UNU-CRIS Working Papers
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Over the last decades, the process of globalization appears to have gained momentum. This process has been characterised by a number of parallel developments: (1) the integration of the world economy: world trade and investment have increased at a much faster rate than the growth rate of the world economy; (2) the pre-eminence of the multilateral trading system: with successive rounds of multilateral trade negotiations and institutional developments resulting in the creation of the World Trade Organization (WTO) in 1995, as well as the broadening of the WTO membership (including new trade heavyweights such as China and Russia), the rule-based system enshrined in the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) has been reinforced; (3) the process of regionalisation: with not only an increase in the number of regional integration agreements, but also the deepening and widening of existing regional initiatives; and (4) the mushrooming of bilateral and plurilateral trade, investment and cooperation agreements: trade integration has increasingly taken place among non neighbouring countries or regions. (5) the increase in North-South agreements: parallel to North-North Regional Trade Agreements (RTAs) and the development of South-South regional integration initiatives, the last decade has been marked by numerous initiatives of North-South trade agreements, as well as the emergence of continental and sub-continental regionalism. This evolution provides numerous new opportunities to foster economic growth and development. For developing countries in particular, which have often call for ‘trade not aid’, the opening of world and regional markets offer new perspectives. At the same time, trade liberalisation and deeper forms of integration generate serious challenges which, if not properly addressed, might disrupt their economies and negatively affect their development. This note reviews some of the recent developments and considers some of the questions related to the linkages and coherence of the multi- level trade negotiations.