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The Treatment of Regulatory Convergence in Preferential Trade Agreements

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This article explores the concept of ‘regulatory convergence’ in the context of the evolving literature on legal convergence and divergence. Such a concept has emerged as an overarching horizontal discipline in the latest generation of preferential trade agreements and aims to reduce unnecessary regulatory incompatibilities between countries in order to facilitate cross-border trade and investment.

Differing approaches to regulatory convergence found in recently concluded PTAs, or are currently under negotiation, are examined, with a special focus on the ‘regulatory cooperation’ approach embedded in CETA, the path of ‘regulatory improvement’ taken by members of the Pacific Alliance, and the ‘regulatory coherence’ track included in the TPP. We also refer to the TTIP negotiations conducted between the EU and the US.

The article offers a broad understanding of the different ways in which regulatory convergence is implemented across PTAs, and the legal complexities resulting from the ambiguity of the concept. It further describes the scope and effects of the different mechanisms used to achieve regulatory convergence, on both substantive and procedural matters.

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Previous versions of this article were presented at the ICTSD-IBD RTA Exchange (Geneva, 28 March 2017), the Latin American Studies Association (LASA) 50th Congress (27–30 May 2016, New York), and at the International Society of Public Law (ICON·S) 2015 Conference (New York University, 1–3 July 2015). The authors would like to thank Gráinne de Búrca, Henry Gao, Jörg Zimmermann, and two anonymous reviewers of the World Trade Review for their helpful comments and suggestions.

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