Regionalism has been conceptualised as a development strategy for integrating developing countries into the global economy, and there has been an increase in the number of North-South regional trade agreements (RTAs) being negotiated among WTO Members. Notified under Article XXIV GATT 1994, members of North-South RTAs must liberalize substantially all trade on a reciprocal basis, within a reasonable period of time, irrespective of their development status. Challenging the assumptions on which North-South regionalism rests, this article submits that Article XXIV has created a regulatory framework that sustains a monocultural conception of development which is synonymous with economic growth. Rejecting the economic model, this article argues that development should be understood as a multidimensional process, with an emphasis on equality of opportunities for all countries. Through a deconstruction of the textual interpretation of Article XXIV, and by analysing the practical application of this provision in the EU-ACP Economic Partnership Agreements, the gradual erosion of development from the process of trade liberalisation will be revealed. This article argues that the “rationalizing spell” of legal formalism must be broken in order to reimagine the legal framework, so that a concept of development, grounded in equality, is facilitated by the multilateral trading system.
- north-south FTAs