REGIONAL TRADE AGREEMENTS INFORMATION SYSTEM

(RTA-IS)

 

 

USER GUIDE

 

 

I.          Brief Introduction to Regional Trade Agreements (RTAs) 2

A.        The WTO Rules  2

B.        wto bodies  2

C.        Types of Agreements  2

D.        WTO Consideration Process  3

II.        What is the Regional Trade Agreements Information System    5

A.        What kind of information is available from the RTA-IS?  5

1.         The "ID-Card" and its content 5

2.         Early announcements and inactive agreements  5

3.         Pre-defined reports and Summary Tables  5

4.         Background WTO documents  6

B.        RTA Information Search facility   6

1.         Search by country / territory  6

2.         Search by criteria  6

3.         Search by agreement 6

4.         Sort agreements  6

III.       Definitions  7

A.        Composition of Regions  7

B.        Glossary of RTA ID-CARD terms  9

C.        Glossary of Main topics covered by the RTAs  11

IV.       Feedback and Contact point   11

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


I.                   Brief Introduction to Regional Trade Agreements (RTAs)

A.                 The WTO Rules

When a WTO Member enters into a regional trade agreement (RTA) through which it grants more favourable conditions than for trade with other WTO Members, it departs from the guiding principle of non-discrimination defined in the GATT, and the GATS.  WTO Members are however permitted to enter into such arrangements under specific conditions which are spelled out in three sets of rules:

 

¨                   Paragraphs 4 to 10 of Article XXIV of GATT 1994 (as clarified in the Understanding on the Interpretation of Article XXIV of the GATT 1994) provide for the formation and operation of customs unions and free-trade areas covering trade in goods, and interim agreements leading to one or the other;

 

¨                   Paragraph 2(c) of the so-called Enabling Clause (i.e., the 1979 Decision on Differential and More Favourable Treatment, Reciprocity and Fuller Participation of Developing Countries) refers to preferential trade arrangements in trade in goods amongst developing country Members;  and

 

¨                   Article V of GATS governs RTAs in the area of trade in services, for both developed and developing country Members.

 

In addition, the Transparency Mechanism — negotiated in the Negotiating Group on Rules established under the Doha Development Agenda — provides for the early announcement of any RTA.  Each of the above mentioned sets of rules provide for the notification of RTAs to the WTO;  notified RTAs are considered by Members on the basis of a Factual Presentation drafted by the WTO Secretariat in consultation with the parties to the RTA.  See the dedicated webpage on the WTO General Council Decision on 14 December 2006.

 

 

B.                 wto bodies

The consideration of RTAs shall be carried out by the WTO Committee on Regional Trade Agreements (CRTA), except for those RTAs that are notified under the Enabling Clause, which are considered by the WTO Committee on Trade and Development (CTD) meeting in dedicated session.

 

 

C.                 Types of Agreements

The parties to an RTA can notify several types of RTAs:

 

¨                   A Free Trade Agreement (FTA), as defined in Paragraph 8(b) of Article XXIV of GATT 1994;

¨                   A Customs Union (CU), as defined in Paragraph 8(a) of Article XXIV of GATT 1994;

¨                   An Economic Integration Agreement (EIA), as defined in Article V of GATS;  or  

¨                   A "Partial Scope" Agreement (PS).  "Partial Scope" which is not defined or referred to in the WTO Agreement, means that the agreement covers only certain products.  Partial scope agreements are notified under paragraph 4(a) of the Enabling Clause.

 

 

 

 

 

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D.                 WTO Consideration Process

¨                   Early Announcement

 

Under the Transparency Mechanism, Members participating in new negotiations aimed at the conclusion of an RTA shall endeavour to inform the WTO Secretariat of such negotiations.  Members which are parties to a newly signed RTA shall convey to the Secretariat information on the RTA.

 

¨                   Notification

 

WTO Members entering into RTAs are required to notify such RTA to the WTO, either under Article XXIV of the GATT 1994 or the Enabling Clause (for RTAs covering trade in goods), or under Article V of the GATS (for RTAs covering trade in services).  In a case of an RTA covering both goods and services, two notifications are required.  The notification should be made following ratification of the RTA and before the application of preferential treatment between the parties.

 

¨                   Notification of Changes

 

Any changes affecting the implementation of an RTA, or the operation of an already implemented RTA, should be notified to the WTO as soon as possible after the changes occur.

 

¨                   Subsequent reporting

 

At the end of the RTA's implementation period, the parties shall submit to the WTO a short report on the realisation of the liberalization commitments contained in the RTA.

 

¨                   Factual Presentation (FP)

 

The Factual Presentation is a document prepared on the responsibility of the WTO Secretariat in conformity with Article 7 (b) of the Transparency Mechanism in full consultation with the parties to serve as the basis for the consideration of an RTA by the WTO Membership.  It describes the trade environment, the main characteristics of the agreement, and its impact on market access in the parties to the RTA.  The parties are required to submit trade and tariff line information as specified in Annex I of the Transparency Mechanism, within a specified period (usually 10 weeks but 20 weeks for agreements exclusively between developing countries) after notification.  The status of the Factual Presentation may be either already "distributed" (i.e. issued as an official WTO document); "not distributed"; or "on hold" if, for example, specific commitments in services have not yet been agreed. 

 

¨                   Factual Abstract (FA)

 

The Factual Abstract is a short summary of the main features of the agreement, prepared by the WTO Secretariat in conformity with Article 22(b) of the Transparency Mechanism.  It is prepared for older agreements for which an examination has already been completed by the CRTA. The Factual Abstract may be "not distributed" or already "distributed".

¨                   The case of agreements  notified to the GATT 1947

 

In the case of agreements notified to the GATT 1947 and covered by Paragraph 22 (a) of the Transparency Decision, the consideration status may be "No report" or "Report adopted", depending on whether or not a GATT 1947 working party conducted an examination of such agreements and issued a report. For Agreements falling under the Enabling Clause, no examination was mandated and hence such agreements do not have a working party report.

¨                   Questions and Replies

 

Before an agreement is considered by WTO Members, they may submit questions in writing to the parties to the agreement.  The parties are expected to provide written answers to these questions in advance of the meeting to consider that RTA.  A document containing the questions and replies submitted by Members and the parties is issued three working days in advance of the CRTA or the CTD meeting where the RTA is to be considered.

 

¨                   Standard Format for information on RTAs

 

The objective of the Standard Format for Information on RTAs was to facilitate and standardize the provision of initial information by parties to regional trade agreements. As of 2006, the practice of submitting standard formats has been discontinued and superseded by the transparency provisions of the Transparency Mechanism.

 

¨                   Biennial report

 

Paragraph 9 and 11 of the Understanding on the Interpretation of Article XXIV of the GATT 1994 provide for the biennial submission of a report on the operation of agreements notified under Article XXIV.  As of 2006, the practice of submitting biennial reports has been discontinued and superseded by the transparency provisions of the Transparency Mechanism.

 

 

 

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II.                What is the Regional Trade Agreements Information System

The Regional Trade Agreement Information System (RTA-IS) is a comprehensive database of all RTAs notified to the GATT/WTO.  The application allows users to search and export available information on any notified RTA, as well as on the consideration process of a particular RTA within the CRTA or the CTD.  In particular, it allows a dynamic search through all notified RTAs according to a selection of criteria, such as year of entry into force, type of agreement, etc.  The RTA-IS is maintained in the WTO's three official languages, English, French and Spanish by the Regional Trade Agreement Section in the Trade Policies Review Division of the WTO.

 

The RTA-IS contains information only on those agreements that have been notified, or for which an early announcement has been made, to the WTO.  Information on the content of these agreements and the parties thereto reflects information provided by the parties to the WTO.  Therefore, membership to the agreement may not be up to date if changes have not been notified by the parties;  similarly, any subsequent change, any additional protocol etc. to the agreement will be available in the database only to the extent that it has been notified.  For further information, please consult either the RTA Parties' website(s) or contact the RTA Section (see "Contact RTA Section").

 

 

A.                 What kind of information is available from the RTA-IS?

1.                  The "ID-Card" and its content

The information is presented in the form of an "ID-Card", which displays all the factual information available on a given agreement:  its signatories, date of signature and entry into force, a link to the website where the text of the agreement and its annexes can be found, the WTO process that has taken place regarding that agreement, etc.  If the agreement has been the subject of a Factual Presentation or a Factual Abstract, a list of the main topics covered by the agreement and presented in the document is provided.  Also, the tariff and trade data that have been received from the parties for the preparation of the Factual Presentation is included in the ID-Card.

 

2.                  Early announcements and inactive agreements

¨                   In addition to notified agreements, the RTA-IS also contains available information on early announcements of those agreements that have not yet been notified.

 

¨                   By default, the information that is presented by the RTA-IS concerns those notified RTAs that are in force, but it is also possible to retrieve information on inactive RTAs.

 

3.                  Pre-defined reports and Summary Tables

The RTA-IS also allows the user to retrieve and export pre-defined WTO reports of all RTAs in force, already sorted by date of entry into force etc.

 

The Summary Tables provide detailed figures on the number of RTAs notified to the GATT/WTO and still in force, sorted by notification, by Type of Agreement and by Status in the WTO consideration process.  WTO statistics on RTAs, as contained in the summary tables, are based on notification requirements rather than on physical numbers of RTAs. Thus, for an RTA that includes both goods and services, we count two notifications (one for goods and the other services), even though it is physically one RTA. Nevertheless, figures on the physical number of RTAs (counting goods and services together), are provided in the last table.  

 

 

 

4.                  Background WTO documents

¨                   The search by country/territory also makes available a number of background WTO documents on WTO Members' trade laws, policies, or trade environment, such as the Trade Profile, the Tariff Profile or the most recent Trade Policy Review.

 

 

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B.                 RTA Information Search facility

1.                  Search by country/territory

¨                   Allows the user to select any country/territory, either by clicking on the map or on a drop-down list and retrieve details of all RTAs that have been notified or early announcements.

 

2.                  Search by criteria

¨                   Allows the user to select a combination of search parameters to obtain a list of RTAs meeting those parameters.  The user can then click on the RTA name to obtain its ID Card.   For example, the user can select the following criterion: Type of Agreement = Economic Integration Agreements (EIA);  the list will show all notified agreements that are: either EIAs (for trade in services only);  or EIAs and Customs Unions, or EIAs and Free Trade Agreements (for agreements covering trade in goods and services).  It is also possible to search by multiple criteria, e.g. all FTAs, signed by a given country, with a specific year of entry into force.

 

3.                  Search by agreement

¨                   This option allows the selection of an RTA from the list of short RTA titles in alphabetical order.  The user can also search by a specific string of characters, for example typing "asia" will generate a list of all agreements whose short title contains the string "asia", such as the Asian Free Trade Agreement (AFTA). 

 

¨                   The short RTA titles are not the full titles of the agreements, which can be found under the Text of the Agreement.  In the short titles, the United States is replaced by "US", and the European Communities by "EC".  Therefore, the user must search by US and not by "United" to generate a list of agreements to which the United States is a signatory.

 

4.                  Sort agreements

The list of RTAs generated by a search can also be sorted using any of the field names at the top of the screen in either ascending or descending order.

 

 

 

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III.             Definitions

A.                 Composition of Regions

Each signatory to an RTA, whether a WTO Member or not, is considered to be part of one of the following regions:

 

Region

Members

North America

Bermuda, Canada, Mexico, United States of America, and territories in North America n.e.s

Caribbean

Anguilla; Antigua and Barbuda; Aruba; Bahamas; Barbados; Cayman Islands; Cuba; Dominica; Dominican Republic; Grenada; Haiti; Jamaica; Montserrat; Netherlands Antilles; Saint Kitts and Nevis; Saint Lucia; Saint Vincent and the Grenadines; Trinidad and Tobago; Turks and Caicos Islands; and British Virgin Islands.

Central America

Belize, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, Panama

South America

Argentina, Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, Guyana, Paraguay, Peru, Suriname, Uruguay and other countries and territories in South America n.e.s.

Europe[1]

Albania, Austria, Belgium, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, UNMIK, former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Malta, Montenegro, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Serbia and Montenegro, Slovak Republic, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey, United Kingdom and territories in Europe n.e.s.

The Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS)

Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyz Republic, Moldova, Russian Federation, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Ukraine and Uzbekistan.

Africa

Algeria, Egypt, Libyan Arab Jamahiriya, Morocco and Tunisia; and Sub-Saharan Africa comprising: Western Africa: Benin, Burkina Faso, Cape Verde, Côte d'Ivoire, Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Liberia, Mali, Mauritania, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal, Sierra Leone and Togo; Central Africa: Burundi, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Chad, Congo, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon, Rwanda, and Sao Tome and Principe; Eastern Africa: Comoros, Djibouti, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Kenya, Madagascar, Mauritius, Seychelles, Somalia, Sudan, United Republic of Tanzania and Uganda; and Southern Africa: Angola, Botswana, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa, Swaziland, Zambia, Zimbabwe; and territories in Africa n.e.s.

The Middle East

Bahrain; Iraq; Islamic Republic of Iran; Israel; Jordan; Kuwait; Lebanon; Palestine; Oman; Qatar; Saudi Arabia; Syrian Arab Republic; United Arab Emirates; Yemen; and other countries and territories in the Middle East n.e.s.

East Asia

Brunei Darussalam; Cambodia; China; Christmas Island; Cocos (Keeling) Islands; Hong Kong Special Administrative Region of China (Hong Kong, China); Indonesia; Japan; Korea, Democratic  People's Republic of; Korea, Republic of;

Lao People's Democratic Republic; Macao, China; Malaysia; Mongolia; Myanmar; Philippines; Singapore; Separate Customs Territory of Taiwan, Penghu, Kinmen and Matsu (Taipei, Chinese); Thailand; Timor-Leste; Viet Nam; Other East Asia, n.e.s

West Asia

Afghanistan; Bangladesh; Bhutan; India; Maldives; Nepal; Pakistan; Sri Lanka

Oceania

Australia;   Fiji; Kiribati; New Zealand; Papua New Guinea; Samoa; Solomon Islands; Tonga; Tuvalu; Vanuatu; and other countries and territories in Oceania

 

 

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B.                 Glossary of RTA ID-CARD terms  

Term

Definition

Accession

The RTA is an accession (i.e. Accession = Yes) if  the agreement provides for a new signatory to adhere to an existing agreement.  In that case, the existing agreement appears under "related agreements"

Agreement title

Shortened title of the agreement, or acronym.  The full title of the agreement can be found in the official text of the agreement.

Consideration status

Stage reached in process of consideration of the RTA in the WTO, including the underlying documentation. The consideration status can be one of the following:

 

1. FA distributed:  the Factual Abstract has been issued.

2. FA not distributed: the Factual Abstract has not been issued. 

3. FP distributed:  the Factual Presentation has been issued. 

4. FP not distributed:  the Factual Presentation has not been issued.  

5. FP on hold:  the Factual Presentation is on hold.

6. No report:  no report has been issued for this RTA.

7. Report adopted:  a report has been issued and adopted for this RTA.  Items 6 and 7 relate only to those RTAs notified during the GATT years.

Coverage

 

Goods, or services, or both, as notified by the signatories to the agreement.

Composition

Bilateral (two signatories) or plurilateral (three or more signatories) to the agreement.

Cross Regional

The signatories to the agreement belong to at least two regions.

Party Type

 

This field indicates if one Party is an RTA, or if all parties are RTAs.

Related agreement

 

Another agreement with the same signatories but a change of scope, for example an additional agreement to include services or the same agreement with new signatories (Accession).

Signatories, original

The original signatories are the entities that signed the agreement.

Signatories, current

 

The current signatories are those entities that are currently party to the agreement. For some plurilateral RTAs, these signatories may not always reflect the notifications made by the Parties which may have been submitted a long time ago and have not since been updated.

Status

 

The current status of the agreement as notified by the parties, can be one of the following:

1.Early announcement-Under negotiation:  early announcement to the WTO of an RTA that is under negotiation.

2. Early announcement-Signed: early announcement of an RTA that has been signed but is not yet in force.

3. In Force:  the RTA is in force.

4. Inactive:  the RTA is notified as no longer being in force.

Trade-related data

 

Tariff and trade data that have been used to compile the statistics presented in the Factual Presentation.

 

Type of agreement

 

The type of agreement notified by the parties can be one of the following:

1. Customs Union

2. Free Trade Agreement

3. Partial Scope Agreement

4. Economic Integration Agreement

5. Free Trade Agreement & Economic   Integration Agreement

6. Partial Scope & Economic Integration Agreement

7. Customs Union & Economic Integration Agreement

Notification under

 

The WTO provisions invoked when the agreement is notified by the parties are:

1. GATT Art. XXIV

2. Enabling Clause 

3. GATS Art. V

WTO Members

 

Indicates whether or not all parties to the RTA are WTO Members

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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C.                             Glossary of Main topics covered by the RTAs

For those agreements that  have been the subject of a Factual Presentation or a Factual Abstract, a list of the main topics covered by the agreement and presented in the document is provided. These are:

 

¨       Accession

¨       Anti-dumping measures

¨       Balance-of-payments measures

¨       Competition

¨       Countervailing measures

¨       Customs-related procedures

¨       Denial of benefits

¨       Dispute settlement

¨       Domestic regulation 

¨       Environment

¨       Exceptions, general or for security

¨       Export restrictions 

¨       Government procurement

¨       Intellectual property rights

¨       Investment

¨       Labour

¨       Mutual Recognition  (services)  

¨       Rules of origin

¨       Safeguard measures

¨       Sanitary and phyto-sanitary measures

¨       Subsidies

¨       Tariff-rate quotas

¨       Technical regulations, standards, technical barriers to trade

 

 

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IV.              Feedback and Contact point

Any feedback on this database, including any problem encountered with the content or the user interface, should be reported to the RTA Section:

 

            Regional Trade Agreements Section

            Trade Policies Review Division

            World Trade Organization

            154, rue de Lausanne

            CH-1211 Geneva 21


            Email:               rta@wto.org
            Tel:                   +41 (0)22 739 6430
            Fax:                  +41 (0)22 739 5774

 

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[1] On 1 December 2009, the Treaty of Lisbon amending the Treaty on European Union and the Treaty establishing the European Community (done at Lisbon, 13 December 2007) entered into force.  On 29 November 2009, the WTO received a Verbal Note (WT/L/779) from the Council of the European Union and the Commission of the European Communities stating that, by virtue of the Treaty of Lisbon, as of 1 December 2009, the European Union replaces and succeeds the European Community.