Azevedo on RTAs and the WTO

By Shannon Togawa Mercer

On Thursday, Director-General of the WTO, Roberto Azevedo, delivered a speech at the Peterson Institute for International Economics touching on the impact of the growing body of Regional Trade Agreements (RTAs). At the prompting of the G20, the WTO has begun an investigation into how an increased number of RTAs will interact with extant WTO rules. Finding that most RTAs use WTO rules as a foundation for their specific agreements, he also cautions that the new subjects tackled in these agreements may lead to a “proliferation of different rules and standards [which] would be a drag on business.” However, Azevedo believes that the multilateral trading system and RTAs have, and likely will continue to be, mutually reinforcing. Furthermore, the WTO as a “part of the architecture of global economic governance” will continue adding value to the system through its monitoring of trade policies and dispute settlement mechanisms.