Report on the treatment of medical devices in regional trade agreements (LEAs) Deep trade agreements are an important institutional infrastructure for regional integration. They reduce trade costs and set many of the rules under which economies operate. If made effective, they can improve political cooperation between countries, thereby increasing international trade and investment, economic growth and social welfare. Studies by the World Bank Group have shown that the EU and NAFTA appear to have succeeded in boosting intra-regional trade and investment flows in the 1990s. And contrary to some fears, they have not become closed trading blocs that have increased discrimination against non-members. Their clear success has encouraged other countries to develop their own regional agreements (a development that has been further stimulated by the slow pace of WTO negotiations). The pace of regionalism accelerated considerably after the mid-1990s and spread to regions such as East Asia, which previously had few ASAs. By May 2003, more than 265 TAs had been notified to the WTO (and its predecessor, gatt). More than half of this amount was notified after the creation of the WTO in January 1995. More than 190 of these agreements are currently in force. Since agreements that only link developing countries are not covered by Article XXIV and are sometimes not notified to the WTO, the actual number of ASTRs put into service is much higher – probably more than 250.
At the end of 2003, only one of the WTO`s 146 members – Mongolia – was not a party to a regional trade agreement. .