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Multilateralising Regionalism

Ideas for a WTO Action Plan on Regionalism

By Richard E. Baldwin and Philip Thornton

This report calls on the WTO to create an action plan for steering the world back toward the multilateralist ideal that has guided the world trade system since 1947. It makes the case that the WTO and its 151 member countries can find a way to restrain the malign elements of regional deals—while using their benign elements as a springboard toward a new multilateral arrangement. The report shows that regional deals inject both inefficiency and discrimination against poor countries into the multilateral system. However, the authors also explain, any solution must work with the existing network of 400 regional bilateral and preferential trade agreements, not against it.

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