A regional trade agreement (RTA) or preferential trade arrangement (PTA) is a treaty, scheme, or contractual agreement that one or more governments arrange or agree to rule their trade relationships and market access conditions. Through trade agreements, governments agree on a range of obligations that include preferential tariffs for goods, commitments for services market access, intellectual property rights, and competition and investment measures, among other provisions.
Regional trade agreements (RTAs) provide preferential market access, such as lower than MFN or zero tariffs for trade in goods between the RTA parties. They also increasingly have chapters related to trade facilitation, SPS and TBT measures, and intellectual property rights, all of which may impact your business.
Preferential trade arrangements (PTAs) are usually provided by World Trade Organization (WTO) Members to developing country Members in the form of reduced tariffs for goods. Businesses can claim these benefits by meeting rules of origin (see guide on rules of origin) and other conditions stated in the text of these arrangements.
PTAs are unilateral, involving an arrangement where one government provides preferential access to imports from one or more governments without receiving anything in return.
RTAs may be on a bilateral basis between two governments, or may involve multiple governments in the same region or across regions. Visit the World Trade Organization and International Trade Centre websites for more information on trade agreements.
Below we explain both types of arrangements in further detail.
Trade agencies, industry associations, and chambers of commerce may have information on how you can benefit from trade agreements. The WTO’s RTA Database and PTA Database provide information on tariff preferences and other provisions such as customs procedures, SPS and TBT measures, to name a few examples, under all RTAs and PTAs notified to the WTO.
Businesses can also visit the Rules of Origin Facilitator, a tool that identifies preferential tariffs under trade agreements, so long as these goods meet the rules of origin requirements included under these agreements. Through the Facilitator, businesses can find opportunities for preferential market access under trade agreements that can apply to their products. Visit the Rules of Origin Facilitator to learn more.