This paper argues that preferential trade agreements (PTAs) and the World Trade Organization (WTO) are not substitutes, and while PTAs are without doubt here to stay, dispensing with a multilateral venue for doing business in trade matters is not a serious option. It is therefore necessary to seek out better accommodation between PTAs and the WTO than has been apparent to date. The law of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT)/WTO has systematically fallen short in imposing discipline on discriminatory reciprocal trade agreements, while procedural requirements, such as notifications, have been partially observed at best, and dispute settlement findings have tended to reinforce existing weaknesses in the disciplines. One approach to remedying this situation is to explore a different kind of cooperation - that of soft law. A soft law approach to improving coherence and compatibility between the WTO and PTAs may hold some promise, but the option also has its pitfalls.
World Trade Organization Preferential Trade Agreements coherence soft law trade dispute settlement