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date: 18 November 2019

Abstract and Keywords

Defining the borders of the World Trade Organization's (WTO) agenda has been an intensely debated issue for several decades. Although the original General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade already reached ‘behind the border’, early multilateral trade negotiation rounds had the distinctive characteristic of dealing mainly with border measures, particularly tariffs. The fact that numerous regional trade agreements concluded after 1995 go significantly further ‘behind the border’ than multilateral agreements signals that at least part of the WTO membership is willing to include themes into their trade agenda which have not reached support at the multilateral level. This article examines the linkages between trade liberalization and internal or ‘behind the border’ measures from the point of view of the WTO, and discusses the process of agenda-setting in the WTO and the rationale for linking domestic regulations to trade negotiations. It also considers other types of internal measures such as subsidies or public procurement. The terms ‘international regulation’ or ‘international standards’ are used to refer to domestic regulatory measures that have been harmonized across countries.

Keywords: agenda, World Trade Organization, behind the border, Tariffs and Trade, multilateral trade, trade negotiations, trade liberalization, domestic regulations, international standards, subsidies

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