In collaboration with partners such as the WTO and the OECD, the World Bank Group provides information and support to countries wishing to sign or deepen regional trade agreements. In practical terms, the work of the WBG includes: Customs union member statesA customs union is an agreement between two or more neighbouring countries to reduce trade barriers, reduce tariffs or abolish quotas. These unions have been defined in the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) and are the third stage of economic integration. The Committee on Economic Relations and Policy of Economic Union and The Policy of Economic Union and Eastern Europe In the 1990s, the EU and NAFTA succeeded in stimulating intra-regional trade and investment flows. And contrary to some fears, they have not become closed trading blocs that have increased discrimination against non-members. Its obvious success has encouraged other countries to build their own regional agreements (a development further encouraged by the slow pace of progress in WTO negotiations). The pace of regionalism accelerated markedly after the mid-1990s and spread to regions such as East Asia, where RTAs were few. As of May 2003, more than 265 ATRs 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 exclusively link developing countries are not subject to Article XXIV and are sometimes not notified to the WTO, the actual number of ATRs put into service is much higher – probably more than 250. At the end of 2003, only one of the WTO`s 146 members – Mongolia – did not participate in a regional trade agreement. Many governments are increasingly recognizing the need to ensure that trade and investment agreements reflect environmental concerns in order to contribute to cross-cutting environmental objectives and increase public acceptance.
The report focuses on the practices available to ensure that investment provisions reaffirm the national area of environmental policy. A common market is a kind of trade agreement in which members remove internal trade barriers, adopt common policies on relations with non-members and allow members to move their resources freely among themselves. Regional trade agreements (ATRs) have multiplied over the years and have achieved, including a significant increase in major multilateral agreements being negotiated.