In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Bilateral and Regional Trade Agreements

  • Introduction
  • Common Market of the Southern Cone (Mercado Común del Sur or MERCOSUR)
  • Other RTAs in Latin America and the Caribbean
  • Sub-Saharan Africa
  • Middle East and North Africa Region

International Law Bilateral and Regional Trade Agreements
John Shijian Mo
  • LAST REVIEWED: 23 March 2012
  • LAST MODIFIED: 23 March 2012
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199796953-0019


Bilateral trade agreements (BTAs) and regional trade agreements (RTAs) are an important social phenomenon in the world today. Literally, a bilateral trade agreement is one made between two contracting parties, and a regional trade agreement is one made between two or more contracting parties that share some common denomination known conceptually as “region.” The purpose of such agreements is to reinforce trade relations between the members. In this age of globalization, the world trading order is based on the World Trade Organization (WTO) Agreement, which is a multilateral treaty. Within the WTO framework, many bilateral and regional trade agreements have been concluded to offer additional trade benefits and privileges to the contracting parties, in line with the broad principles set out in the WTO Agreement. Perhaps as the result of a value judgment, the WTO does not differentiate between a bilateral and a regional trade agreement. Instead, all the additional trade agreements between WTO members are referred to as RTAs. Accordingly, we must read the WTO information on RTAs as covering both bilateral and regional trade agreements. As of May 2011, some 489 RTAs had been notified to the GATT/WTO, and of these, 297 agreements were in force. This bibliography examines the major literature on bilateral and regional trade agreements from three perspectives: general, theoretical, and practical.


The use of terminology in legal studies is always conceptual. This means that special terms must always be defined and understood in their special or relevant context. The same can be said of Bilateral Trade Agreements and Regional Trade Agreements. These subsections select representative literature that helps us to understand the usage of BTAs, RTAs, and Other Similar Terms, including their basic meanings, history, and essential features.

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