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Regional Trade Agreements

Paragraph 29 of the Doha Declaration calls for negotiations aimed at "clarifying and improving" disciplines and procedures under the existing WTO provisions applying to regional trade agreements (RTAs).

To that end, in December 2006, the WTO General Council adopted a decision for the provisional application of the "Transparency Mechanism for Regional Trade Agreements" to improve the transparency of RTAs.

As of May 1, 2009, a total of 44 RTAs notified under Article XXIV of GATT, GATS Article V and the Enabling Clause have been considered under the Transparency Mechanism. RTAs notified under Article XXIV of the GATT and Article V of GATS are considered in the Committee on Regional Trade Agreements (CRTA), while RTAs notified under the Enabling Clause are considered in the Committee on Trade and Development (CTD).

The main features of the Transparency Mechanism include the early announcement of any RTA, guidelines regarding the notification of RTAs, and the preparation by the WTO Secretariat of a "factual presentation" of RTAs to assist WTO Members in their consideration of a notified RTA.

The Transparency Mechanism is being implemented on a provisional basis. It will be reviewed, modified if necessary, and is expected to be replaced by a permanent mechanism adopted as part of the overall results of the Doha Round.

A new, public RTAs database has also been launched under the Transparency Mechanism.  It provides, for the first time, access to in-depth information about regional trade agreements around the world and perspective on the effects that such agreements have on the multilateral trading system as a whole.