The ever-increasing number of preferential agreements (ASPT) is a distinguishing feature of international trade. The 2011 World Trade Report describes the historical evolution of SAAs and the current landscape of agreements. It examines the reasons why SAAs are put in place, their economic impact and the content of the agreements themselves. Finally, the interaction between SAAs and the multilateral trading system is studied. The report shows that more and more SAAs are going beyond preferential tariffs, with the inclusion in agreements of many non-tariff areas of a regulatory nature. An extended version of this document has been circulated in the form of Hofmann et al. (2017) entitled “Horizontal Depth: A New Database on the Content of Preferential Trade Agreements”. We thank our legal advisors in this project, the law firm Batalla and in particular Priscilla Ortiz for the excellent work of coding preferential trade agreements. We thank two anonymous experts, Rohini Acharya, Ana Cristina Molina, Alen Mulabdic, Robert Teh, Alan Winters (the editor) and seminar participants from Stanford University, the World Bank and EIEF (Rome) for their comments on an earlier project. Errors and omissions are our sole responsibility. The cumulative opening of trade – at the multilateral, regional and unilateral levels – has reduced the room for manoeuvre for the provision of preferential tariffs under the SAAs.
As a result, only a small fraction of world trade in goods benefits from preferences and preferential tariffs are becoming less and less important in ATPs. The report concludes by examining the challenge that deep ATPs pose to the multilateral trading system and proposes a series of options to enhance coherence between these agreements and the WTO-regulated trading system. Summary: Preferential agreements are an important feature of the global trading system. Several issues, ranging from the justification of preferential regimes to their effects on members, non-members and the broader multilateral trading system, are at the forefront of academic and policy debates on trade policy. This document presents a new database that provides a detailed assessment of the content of preferential regimes and examines the scope and legal applicability of the provisions that govern a wide range of policy areas. The database contains information on 279 agreements signed by 189 countries between 1958 and 2015. Analysis of the data confirms one of the main conclusions of the literature: preferential trade agreements are deeper and deeper over time.. . .