The impact of plurilateral trade agreements on developing countries – to participate or not to participate?
Jansen van Rensburg, Susara J.
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In the wake of the impasse in the Doha Development Round of multilateral trade talks, sector-specific plurilateral trade agreements (PTAs) have been gaining traction. However, PTAs mostly appeal to developed countries, with the uptake among developing countries (including least-developed countries) being very limited. This article investigates the factors contributing to such a phenomenon, whether there is indeed merit in developing countries playing a more active role in PTAs and how they might be encouraged to do so. Both qualitative and quantitative analyses were conducted with specific attention being given to the effects, on a selection of developing countries, of participation in four PTAs: the Trade in Services Agreement, the Government Procurement Agreement, the Environmental Goods Agreement and the Information Technology Agreement II. Among the findings was that although, according to the qualitative analysis, policymakers are generally disinterested in the four PTAs because they are not aligned to the countries’ economic interests or they threaten policy space, the quantitative analysis revealed that gains could often be made from more active participation in these agreements. This clearly points to a research gap and highlights the need for more in-depth analysis of the potential of PTAs in the developing world.
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