OECD Trade Policy Papers

This series is designed to make available to a wider readership selected trade policy studies prepared for use within the OECD.

NB. No. 1 to No. 139 were released under the previous series title OECD Trade Policy Working Papers.


Multilateralising Regionalism: The Case of E-Commerce

This study analyses the extent to which e-commerce provisions in existing RTAs can be multilateralised. E-commerce has been recognised as an important engine for growth and development, yet WTO negotiations in this area have yielded very little progress so far. Against the backdrop of WTO stalemate, an increasing number of RTAs adopted specific provisions and rules for e-commerce. While these provisions increase the tradability of e-commerce, they also risk the creation of an e-commerce spaghetti bowl that will undermine the prospects for future WTO consensus in this area. This study considers two broad approaches for multilateralisation of RTA provisions. First, it suggests bottom-up multilateralisation extending RTAs e-commerce undertakings and provisions to a larger number of trading partners. Second, it proposes top-down multilateralisation which can advance e-commerce provisions, commitments and common learning at the WTO level. Both approaches to multilateralisation emphasise the importance of common definitions, rule-making and extension of bilateral liberalisation undertakings. The study highlights that despite the proliferation of e-commerce provisions in RTAs, many commonalities exist thus increasing the possibility of multilateral convergence.


Keywords: regional trade agreements, political economy, multilateralisation, WTO, e-commerce
JEL: F50: International Economics / International Relations, National Security, and International Political Economy / International Relations, National Security, and International Political Economy: General; F14: International Economics / Trade / Empirical Studies of Trade; F15: International Economics / Trade / Economic Integration; F13: International Economics / Trade / Trade Policy; International Trade Organizations
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