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International Trade Law : Research Guide

Introduction

Regional trade organizations are multilateral arrangements focused around a geographical area. The goal of a regional trade organization is the liberalization of international trade between the member nations. Regional trade agreements generally take on one of four forms: free trade areas, customs unions, common markets and economic unions. Free trade areas occur when member countries eliminate tariffs and trade barriers, but maintain individual foreign trade policies. In customs unions, member countries eliminate tariffs and create a common external trade regime. With a common market, regional integration includes trade as well as free movement of all aspects of production. An economic union represents the coordination of all the economic policies of the member countries.

This section of the guide presents resources relating to the rise and development of regional trade organizations generally. Following that are discussions and resources for a selection of regional trade organizations. There are numerous other regional trade organizations in all areas of the world and it is possible to find information about them in some of the resources listed in the general information section.

Introductory Resources

To see more background and reference works available at Diamond Law Library, including older editions, please try these searches on Pegasus: 

You can also find a list of selected publications below.

United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement

Trilateral trade between Canada, Mexico and the United States used to be governed by the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), until it was superseded by United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement ("USMCA"). Like its predecessor, the USMCA bsought to support mutually beneficial trade leading to freer, fairer markets, and to robust economic growth in the region.

To see more background and reference works available at Diamond Law Library, please try these searches on Pegasus: 

You can find a selected list of publications below.

North American Free Trade Agreement

The North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) was a trade agreement designed to reduce the boundaries for goods and services across the borders of Canada, the United States and Mexico. While it did not establish a common market in the full sense of the term, NAFTA developed a free trade zone throughout North America. Negotiations for NAFTA began in July of 1991 and the final draft was completed by the summer of 1992. The leaders of the United States, Canada and Mexico signed NAFTA on December 17, 1992. In Mexico, NAFTA became law as an international treaty. In both Canada and the United States, domestic legislation was required in order to implement the treaty. The NAFTA Implementation Act [P.L. 103-182, 107 Stat 2057] passed Congress in December 1993 and was codified primarily into Title 19 of the United States Code [19 U.S.C. 3301 et seq.]. NAFTA officially entered into force on January 1, 1994. In addition to the main treaty, NAFTA included two other agreements relating to environmental and labor issues: the North American Agreement on Environmental Cooperation and the North American Agreement on Labor Cooperation.

The U.S.-Canada Free-Trade Agreement (FTA or CFTA) was a precursor to NAFTA. It was a bilateral trade agreement between the United States and Canada designed to open up the borders between the two countries. The development of the FTA acted as motivation for the development and eventual implementation of NAFTA. FTA went into effect on January 1, 1989, but was suspended following the signing of NAFTA. Were NAFTA to fail or either the U.S. or Canada to withdraw, the FTA would be reinstated.

There are a number of places where one can find the text of the NAFTA agreements, as well as its origins and negotiations. The Diamond Library contains numerous resources relating to NAFTA. Presented below are a selection of the library's resources which provide a good entry point for research in this area.

The NAFTA was superseded by United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement ("USMCA"), which took effect on July 1, 2020.

NAFTA Dispute Resolution

Dispute resolution under NAFTA was governed by Chapter 19 - Review and Dispute Settlement in Antidumping and Countervailing Duty Matters and by Chapter 20 - Institutional Arrangements and Dispute Settlement Procedures. Under Article 1904, judicial review of disputes is replaced with binational panel review. Article 2002 established the Secretariat which has the authority to administer the trade disputes mechanisms specified under the NAFTA to resolve conflicts in timely and impartial manner.

NAFTA Founding Documents 

NAFTA Resources

To see more background and reference works available at Diamond Law Library, including older editions, please try these searches on Pegasus: 

You can find a selected list of publications below.

Mercado Común del Cono Sur

The Mercado Comun del Cono Sur (MERCOSUR) was established by the Treaty of Asuncion [30 I.L.M.1041] in March 1991. The final Protocol of Ouro Preto was signed in December 1994 and MERCOSUR went into effect on January 1, 1995. It is a customs union between Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay and Uruguay. Other South American countries have become associate members in MERCOSUR (Chile and Bolivia in 1996 and Peru in 2003) and there are negotiations proceeding with Mexico, Venezuela and Columbia for further expansion. The purpose of MERCOSUR is to create a common market with the elimination of trade barriers between the member countries. The Protocol of Ouro Preto established the administrative structure for MERCOSUR. The Protocol of Brasilia detailed the dispute settlement procedure and the Protocol of Olivos created the Permanent Appellate Tribunal.

It is important to note that the majority of the documentation for MERCOSUR is created in Spanish and Portuguese and has not been translated into English. 

To see more background and reference works available at Diamond Law Library, including older editions, please try these searches on Pegasus: 

You can find a selected list of resources below.

Common Market for Eastern & Southern Africa

Created in December 1994, the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA) operates with the goal of reducing tariffs and forming a trading bloc capable of overcoming the obstacles the countries would face individually. The COMESA Treaty established the administrative structure and functions of the organization. Twenty-one countries have become members of COMESA by signing on o the COMESA Treaty, which makes it the largest regional trade organization in Africa. In October 2000, the first Free Trade Area in Africa was developed between nine of the COMESA members which included the elimination of non-tariff barriers and the free movement of goods and services. The rest of the COMESA members have the ability to join the Free Trade Area after they successfully eliminate the tariffs and trade barriers.

The COMESA webpage has a great deal more information about the structure, purposes and activities of the organization.

Association of Southeast Asian Nations

Association of Southeast Asia Nations (ASEAN) is a treaty organization established in 1967. It currently has ten members. The original five were Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore, and Thailand with Brunei Darussalam, Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar (Burma), and Vietnam joining over the years. The goals of ASEAN are to foster regional economic growth and promote regional stability and development. As an advocate of the less developed nations of Southeast Asia, ASEAN has become a key player in the international trade negotiations. The ASEAN Free Trade Area was initiated in January 1992 with the intent of reducing comprehensive tariff reduction in the region.

The ASEAN webpage has a great deal more information about the structure, purposes and activities of the organization. It also provides information about the ASEAN Treaties.

Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation

The Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) was established in 1989 with the purpose of eliminating trade and investment barriers in the Asia-Pacific region. There are currently 21 member nations. For a complete list see the APEC webpage. Since there is no treaty underlying the organization, all the initiatives proceed on a voluntary basis. There is no formal institutional structure and no dispute settlement process. Regular meetings between the leaders of the member countries have led the way toward the fulfillment of the goals of APEC.

The APEC webpage has a great deal more information about the purposes and activities of the organization.