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What is the difference between the terms such as PTA, CECA, RTA, CEPA, Customs Union, Common Market and Economic Union? How are these related to FTAs?

What is the difference between the terms such as PTA, CECA, RTA, CEPA, Customs Union, Common Market and Economic Union? How are these related to FTAs?

Preferential Trade Agreement (PTA): In a PTA, two or more partners agree to reduce tariffs on agreed number of tariff lines. The list of products on which the partners agree to reduce duty is called positive list. India MERCOSUR PTA is such an example. However, in general PTAs do not cover substantially all trade.

Free Trade Agreement (FTA): 1 Officially called the “Decision on Differential and More Favourable Treatment, Reciprocity and Fuller Participation of Developing Countries”, and adopted under GATT in 1979. In FTAs, tariffs on items covering substantial bilateral trade are eliminated between the partner countries; however each maintains individual tariff structure for non-members. India Sri Lanka FTA is an example.

The key difference between an FTA and a PTA is that while in a PTA there is a positive list of products on which duty is to be reduced; in an FTA there is a negative list on which duty is not reduced or eliminated. Thus, compared to a PTA, FTAs are generally more ambitious in coverage of tariff lines (products) on which duty is to be reduced.

Comprehensive Economic Cooperation Agreement (CECA) and Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (CEPA): These terms describe agreements which consist of an integrated package on goods, services and investment along with other areas including IPR, competition etc.

The India Korea CEPA is one such example and it covers a broad range of other areas like trade facilitation and customs cooperation, investment, competition, IPR etc. Custom Union: In a Customs union, partner countries may decide to trade at zero duty among themselves, however they maintain common tariffs against rest of the world.

An example is Southern African Customs Union (SACU) amongst South Africa, Lesotho, Namibia, Botswana and Swaziland. European Union is also an outstanding example. Common Market: Integration provided by a Common market is one step deeper than that by a Customs Union.

A common market is a Customs Union with provisions to facilitate free movements of labour and capital, harmonize technical standards across members etc.

European Common Market is an example. Economic Union: Economic Union is a Common Market extended through further harmonization of fiscal/monetary policies and shared executive, judicial & legislative institutions. European Union (EU) is an example.


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