The Regional Route to Global Free Trade

With the moribund Doha Round of multilateral free-trade talks awaiting its last rites, a new wave of regional trade negotiations has de facto taken up the mantle of creating a global trade regime. But the regional strategy can work only if its components are balanced and approachable to the wider international community.

MADRID – With the moribund Doha Round of multilateral free-trade talks awaiting its last rites, a new wave of regional trade negotiations has de facto taken up the mantle of establishing a global trade regime. President Barack Obama’s administration has placed the United States at the center of this shift, embracing two major simultaneous negotiations: the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) with the European Union; and the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) with 11 countries in the Americas and Asia.

As the only party to both initiatives, the US is well placed either to move them forward in harmony or to leverage the progress of one negotiation against the other. Beyond affecting America’s immediate negotiating partners, the latter approach would gravely damage progress in establishing a rule-based global system.

The new strategy of regional negotiations can succeed and provide a foundation upon which an international trading regime can be built only if the TTIP and the TPP are balanced and approachable to the wider international community. Otherwise, there is the danger of creating expensive global imbalances and even fragmentation.

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