In the WTO negotiations, developing countries and emerging economies are increasingly opposed to unilateral liberalization efforts that benefit the rich North. As a result, efforts have been made to conclude regional and sectoral trade agreements in which a group of “consenting” countries agree on trade rules. Unlike the multilateral approach, which involves all WTO countries and applies the principle of consistency, these processes do not force the poorest countries to oppose the poorest countries. Note: The United Kingdom has indicated that the provisions of the EU regional trade agreements during the transitional period granted by the European Union will continue to apply to trade with the United Kingdom. For more information, see WT/GC/206 and the EU Note (WT/LET/1462), which informs WTO members that the UK will be treated as a member state of the European Union for relevant international agreements during the transition period. Mega-agreements have much in common: while the public and civil society have always been excluded from the discussion and deprived of information, multinational lobbies have had a great deal of influence and time to pass on their ideas. The agreements were therefore unbalanced and were clearly based on the interests of multinationals. A multi-lateral agreement is a multinational legal or trade agreement between countries. In economic jargon, it is an agreement between more than two countries, but not very many, which would be a multilateral agreement.  In many countries, political opposition to these broad trade agreements has grown rapidly. Civil society organizations have warned against the restrictions imposed by mega-agreements on state regulatory powers and how they limit democracy. Large coalitions of NGOs have developed to oppose these agreements, including Public Eye, which critically monitor developments. Another sensitive aspect of the agreements is the strengthening of the protection of intellectual property rights.
The aim is to grant even wider patents and longer validity periods, for example for medicines. As a result, drug prices would remain high and deter large proportion of the population in developing or emerging countries from accessing treatment, making it even more difficult to control epidemics. In addition, opportunities to patent plants and animals would be enhanced, which would help to increase the vulnerability of farmers facing multinationals in the agricultural industry. Although multilateral trade agreements are binding only on signatory countries, they also have an effect on third countries, as they will govern most international trade rules in the future. About Associate Professor Meredith Kolsky LewisMeredith Kolsky Lewis is Associate Professor and Associate Director of the New Zealand Centre of International Economic Law at Victoria University`s Wellington Faculty of Law. She is also an Associate Professor and Director of the Cross-Border Center for Legal Studies at SUNY Buffalo Law School. She has published numerous publications on regionalism and free trade agreements.