The Dialectical Relationship of Preferential and Multilateral Trade Agreements

Cottier, Thomas; Sieber, Charlotte; Wermelinger, Gabriela (2015). The Dialectical Relationship of Preferential and Multilateral Trade Agreements. In: Dür, Andreas; Elsig, Manfred (eds.) Trade Cooperation: The Purpose, Design and Effects of Preferential Trade Agreements (pp. 465-496). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press 10.1017/CBO9781316018453.024

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Preferentialism and multilateralism are not two independent and succinct avenues in the pur-suit of market access and regulatory policies. They historically build upon each other in a dialectical process, closely related and linked through regulatory bridges and references. They influence and direct each other in various ways. The paper mainly focuses on the evolution of international protection of intellectual property rights and of services. The multilateral regulation of the TRIPS and others derive from years of regulatory experience and high numbers of preferential agreements across the globe. The GATS and others, on the other hand, have entered the pluri- or multilateral stage early. Once regulation has reached the mul-tilateral stage, preferentialism focuses on WTO-plus and -extra commitments. Both areas, however, show close interaction. The principle of MFN ensures that multilateralism and preferentialism do not evolve independently from each other. It produces significant spill-over effects of preferential agreements. Such effects and the need to develop uniform and coherent regulatory standards have led in parallel to a number of preferential, plurilateral and multilateral regulatory initiatives. We submit that the process will eventually encourage the return to multilateralism and negotiations in international fora, in particular the WTO while traditional market access may stay with preferential relations among Nations. Such burden-sharing between different regulatory fora should be reflected in future WTO rules providing the overall backbone of the system.

Item Type:

Book Section (Book Chapter)


02 Faculty of Law > Department of Economic Law > NCCR International Trade Regulation

UniBE Contributor:

Cottier, Thomas; Sieber, Charlotte and Wermelinger, Gabriela


300 Social sciences, sociology & anthropology > 340 Law




Cambridge University Press




Charlotte Sieber

Date Deposited:

07 Jul 2015 15:42

Last Modified:

31 May 2017 11:11

Publisher DOI:





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