Asia & the Pacific Policy Studies

Multilateralism and regionalism in the South Pacific: World Trade Organization and regional fora as complementary institutions for trade facilitation

By Richard Pomfret

As World Trade Organization (WTO) membership becomes almost universal, the Pacific island countries stand out as the largest group of outsiders. As the islands seek to replace reliance on preferential trading arrangements by competitive exports, market access and trade facilitation have become key policy concerns. In this context, WTO membership and regional or bilateral trade agreements are complementary institutions for increasing the potential success of new exports. The WTO sets out agreed principles for market access, and membership includes a dispute resolution process that provides redress against unjustified obstacles to exports, whilst trade facilitation in the sense of overcoming particular cost-raising obstacles to trade is better delivered by regional and bilateral agreements. The argument is supported by evidence from Pacific and other small island economies.

(Photo by DFAT on flickr)

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