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Tariff liberalization in regional trade agreements advanced the multilateral agenda

Tariff liberalization in regional trade agreements involving the agricultural sector had considerable and measurable advances, extending beyond provisions set by the World Trade Organization, according to a newly released study by the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB).

The findings are in the working paper The Treatment of Agriculture in Regional Trade Agreements in the <?xml:namespace prefix = st3 />Americas, written by IDB experts Juliana Almeida, Matthew Shearer and research fellow Carlos Gutiérrez Jr., which was presented during a seminar on Oct. 30 at the Bank's headquarters.  The paper analyzes with great detail the rules and commitments in several regional trade agreements and whether these helped advance the multilateral <?xml:namespace prefix = st2 />agenda.

The paper says that tariff liberalization in certain agricultural products, however, are still subject to extended phase-outs or the persistence of tariffs beyond the implementation period in regional trade agreements. It provides evidence that countries resort to quotas to protect certain products, particularly in regional trade agreements involving developed countries.

In addition, the paper says that provisions related to standards (SPS and TBT) and “trade remedies” do not expand much on language agreed upon at the multilateral level. It finds that commitments tend to be weaker in integration agreements between trading partners at different levels of development that for those concluded among developing countries.

The paper provides recommendations for countries on how to improve their level of commitments in the agricultural sector. These recommendations serve as examples for improving compatibility between the different regional commitments in which a country might be involved and its role on the broader multilateral stage.

The paper concludes that all governments should be ready to move in the direction that leads to a constructive interplay between multilateralism and regionalism.

The paper benefitted from comments submitted by International Policy Council (IPC) members, in particular those of the IPC Working Group on Trade Negotiations: Carlos Pérez del Castillo, Mike Gifford, Tim Josling, Marcelo Regúnaga, and Rolf Moehler, Jiro Shiwaku, and IPC Chief Executive Charlotte Hebebrand. 

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