Preferential Trade Agreements Are in Line with Wto Policies on Free Trade

Preferential trade agreements (PTAs) are a hot topic in the world of international trade. Often viewed as contradictory to the World Trade Organization`s (WTO) policies on free trade, PTAs have become increasingly popular among nations seeking to enhance their trade relations with selected partners.

In this article, we will explore why preferential trade agreements are in line with WTO policies on free trade.

What are Preferential Trade Agreements?

Preferential trade agreements are agreements between two or more countries that allow preferential access to each other`s markets by reducing trade barriers such as tariffs, quotas, and regulatory hurdles. PTAs are designed to promote trade between countries, particularly for those goods and services where trade barriers are high.

There are different types of PTAs, the most common being free trade agreements (FTAs) and regional trade agreements (RTAs). FTAs aim to eliminate all trade barriers between participating countries, while RTAs refer to agreements between countries within a specific region.

Do PTAs contradict WTO policies on free trade?

The WTO has always been a strong advocate of free trade, advocating for the removal of all trade barriers and limitations. It is often thought that preferential trade agreements contradict these policies, as they allow selected countries to enjoy preferential access to markets over other countries.

However, PTAs are not necessarily contradictory to WTO policies on free trade. The WTO recognizes PTAs as a means of promoting free trade, as long as they meet certain conditions.

Firstly, PTAs should be open to all WTO members. Members who are not part of a preferential trade agreement should be able to join at any time. This condition is in line with the WTO`s goal of non-discrimination and ensures that no country is left behind or excluded from trade opportunities.

Secondly, PTAs should not lead to the formation of trade blocs. Trade blocs refer to the formation of regional trade agreements that exclude other countries. This condition is crucial to ensuring that PTAs do not have a negative impact on the multilateral trading system and hinder the progress of global trade.

Lastly, PTAs should not raise trade barriers with countries that are not part of the agreement. This condition is essential to ensuring that PTAs do not distort the global trading system by imposing higher tariffs and trade barriers on non-participating nations.

Why are PTAs important in promoting free trade?

Preferential trade agreements are important in promoting free trade for various reasons. Firstly, they help to reduce trade barriers and increase market access, leading to lower prices and greater competition. This, in turn, leads to an increase in efficiency and productivity, benefiting both producers and consumers.

Secondly, PTAs promote regional integration, helping to create strong and cohesive regional blocs that can compete with other regional blocs. This promotes economic growth and development, leading to more opportunities for trade.

Lastly, PTAs can be used as a stepping stone towards a multilateral trading system. They help to create trust and foster cooperation between countries, making it easier to negotiate and implement multilateral trade policies.


Preferential trade agreements are an important tool in promoting free trade. While they have been viewed as contradictory to WTO policies on free trade, PTAs can be compatible with these policies as long as they meet certain conditions. PTAs reduce trade barriers, promote regional integration, and can be used as a stepping stone towards global trade policies. Therefore, PTAs should be viewed as complementary to the WTO`s vision of a free and fair global trading system.

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