Regional Trade Agreements

What is a regional trade agreement? 

A regional trade agreement (RTA) is a treaty or contractual agreement that two or more governments sign to grant each other preferential market access and set rules to govern their trade relations. Through trade agreements, governments agree on a range of obligations. These can include improved market opening for services and may also include regulatory disciplines for trade in services and investment, among other commitments. 

How can trade agreements affect my business? 

  1. Trade in services:  In RTAs, businesses can benefit from preferential market access terms for supplying their services in the markets of the RTA signatories.
  2. Intellectual property protection and enforcement: Trade agreements increasingly include detailed chapters on intellectual property protection and enforcement. For more information, see the guide on intellectual property considerations.
  3. Investment: In addition to disciplines relevant to trade in services through commercial presence (Mode 3), businesses may also benefit from investment rules in RTAs or international investment agreements (IIAs) that seek to promote, facilitate, and in some cases protect foreign investments in host countries. More information on international investment policy can be found at the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) Investment Policy Hub and IIA Navigator.

What are the different types of RTAs? 

RTAs are signed on a bilateral (an agreement between two governments) or regional basis (agreements with more than two governments). Governments signing these agreements benefit in terms of preferential market access. They also often contain rules that aim to facilitate trade in services. Visit the World Trade Organization (WTO) website for more information on regional trade agreements.

How do I know if my service benefits from preferential treatment under an RTA? 

Trade agencies, industry associations, and chambers of commerce may have information on how you can benefit from regional trade agreements. The WTO’s RTA Database provides information on services commitments and services and investment rules in RTAs that have been notified to the WTO. The Integrated Trade Intelligence Portal (I-TIP) also allows for accessing and searching for services commitments in regional trade agreements.