Regional trade agreements (ATRs) are an important part of international trade relations. Over the years, ATRs have increased not only in number, but also in depth and complexity. WTO members and the secretariat are working to gather information and encourage discussions on ATRs in order to increase transparency and improve understanding of its impact on the broader multilateral trading system. Reciprocal trade agreements between two or more partners that do not necessarily belong to the same region are considered a WTO ACCORD. From June 2016, all WTO members will now have an ATR in force. Documents, including factual information, on the various regional trade agreements notified to the WTO are available in the RTA database. In addition, the increase in RTA has come to an end to the overlapping phenomenon of membership. This can hinder trade flows when traders struggle to meet multiple sets of trade rules. As the scope of the ATR extends to areas of action that are not regulated multilaterally, the risk of inconsistencies between the various agreements may be increased. Most of the previous ATRs involved tariff liberalization and related rules, such as trade defence, standards and rules of origin. Increasingly, ATRs have adopted the liberalization of services as well as obligations on service rules, investment, competition, intellectual property rights, e-commerce, environment and work. This could result in regulatory confusion and implementation problems.

At the 10th Ministerial Conference in Nairobi in 2015, WTO members adopted a ministerial declaration agreeing to work to transform the current interim transparency mechanism into a permanent mechanism, without prejudice to notification obligations. Ministers also instructed the CRTA to discuss the systemic impact of ATRs on the multilateral trading system and its relationship with WTO rules. Opinions differ on the impact of the RTA on global trade liberalization. Although ATRs are intended for signatory countries, the expected benefits can be underestimated if distortions in resource allocation, diversion of trade and investment are not minimized. Report on the treatment of medical devices in regional trade agreements (ATRs) Regional trade agreements (ATRs) appear to be in competition with the WTO, but they can often effectively support the WTO`s multilateral trading system.