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This globalEDGE Blog post is also shared as an opinion segment on the globalEDGE Business Beat on the Michigan Business Network (a radio show hosted by Tomas Hult).


The first two Regional Trade Agreements (RTAs) that existed in the world according to the World Trade Organization’s database on RTAs were the EC Treaty (what has now become known as the European Union), which started in 1958, and the European Free Trade Association (EFTA), which started in 1960. Today, some 60 years later, we have 299 RTAs in force (predicted to be about 308 RTAs by the end of 2018).

Complementing RTAs in the world are Bilateral Trade Agreements (BTAs) between any two of the world’s countries. These BTAs are more difficult to count exactly due to what can be considered an active agreement and what is considered a country. Given that we have 193 country members of the United Nations along with two so-called UN observers (Holy See/Vatican and Palestine) along with Taiwan and Kosovo (and 61 dependent and 6 disputed territories), the options are almost endless for potential bilateral agreements.

Including both RTAs and BTAs, the United States is engaging formally in 14 active trade agreements. The countries included in these 14 agreements are Australia, Bahrain, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Israel, Jordan, Korea, Mexico, Morocco, Nicaragua, Oman, Panama, Peru, and Singapore. The first agreement that the U.S. entered into was with Israel in 1985, with Israel now being the 24th largest trading partner with the U.S. (amounting to about $50 billion annually).