In collaboration with partners such as the WTO and the OECD, the World Bank Group provides information and support to countries wishing to sign or deepen regional trade agreements. In practical terms, the WBG`s work focuses on the number of regional trade agreements that change their nature. In 1990, 50 trade agreements were in force. In 2017, there were more than 280. In many trade agreements, negotiations today go beyond tariffs and cover several policy areas relating to trade and investment in goods and services, including rules that go beyond borders, such as competition policy, public procurement rules and intellectual property rights. ATRs, which cover tariffs and other border measures, are “flat” agreements; THE RTAs, which cover more policy areas at the border and at the back of the border, are “deep” agreements. Many governments are increasingly recognizing the need to ensure that trade and investment agreements reflect environmental concerns in order to contribute to cross-cutting environmental objectives and increase public acceptance. The report focuses on the practices available to ensure that investment provisions reaffirm the national area of environmental policy. Deep integration is the hallmark of the modern regional trade agreement (RTA).
The ATRs, which have deep integration rules, aim to strengthen the competitiveness of business markets in partner countries through three main functions: the protection of foreign companies and their interests; liberalisation of barriers to trade “within the border”; Harmonize domestic trade rules to increase the efficiency of international production. This chapter describes the main lines of research on the causes and consequences of deep commitments to integration into ATRs and provides avenues for future research, emphasizing the importance of trade within global and regional production networks and the role of multinationals as political actors in host countries. The chapter also calls for future work to address the “base” problem in assessing the strength of deep integration commitments and the likelihood of regulatory disorder due to the diversity of in-depth integration models encoded in the ATR. To the extent that atRAs go beyond WTO commitments and remain open to further participation by countries committed to their standards, they can complement the multilateral trading system. Over the years, the OECD has examined the relationship between regional trade agreements and the multilateral trading system, including specific policy areas addressed by ATRs, such as agricultural addressing, technical regulations, compliance standards and procedures, investment rules on international technology transfer, integration of environmental considerations and approaches to market opening in the digital age – to name a few.