Macquarie University
01front.pdf (168.84 kB)

The South Asian preferential trade agreements: the historical, legal, and economic perspective of a sub-regional trade liberalisation and integration

Download (168.84 kB)
posted on 2022-03-28, 02:18 authored by Rizwanul Islam
Preferential Trade Arrangements (PTAs) are proliferating exponentially. A considerable portion of global trade now takes place on preferential terms. In a similar vein, eight member countries (Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, the Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka) of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) have recently concluded the Agreement on South Asian Free Trade Area (SAFTA) and the SAARC Agreement on Trade in Services (SATIS). The progress of sub-regional trade cooperation in South Asia to date appears to be rather lacklustre. This thesis analyses the state of intra-SAARC trade cooperation from its inception; examines whether sub-regional free trade is beneficial for them in economic terms; tests the WTO compliance of the sub-regional PTAs under the auspices of the SAARC; identifies some major hindrances to further advancement of these sub-regional PTAs; and suggests possible ways to overcome or minimise these impediments in order to render the SAFTA and SATIS structurally operational, economically beneficial and legally subsumable in the WTO disciplines. -- This thesis critically analyses the text and context of the PTAs concluded under the auspices of the SAARC. It draws on the experience of comparable plurilateral PTAs in other parts of the globe to identify ways of strengthening the SAFTA and SATIS. The PTAs are international treaties and six of the eight contracting parties of the SAFTA are members of the World Trade Organization (WTO). Therefore, it is their legal obligation to ensure that their PTAs comply with the relevant rules of the WTO. This thesis critically examines the WTO rules on PTAs and assesses to what extent the PTAs under the auspices of the SAARC comply with those rules. It recommends a number of amendments to the PTAs concluded under the auspices of the SAARC that would engender greater inter-connectedness among the SAARC economies. No comprehensive analysis of the PTAs can overlook the wider debate regarding the motivations for PTAs, their strengths, weaknesses and impact on the multilateral trading system. This thesis presents a politico-economic critique of these issues in the context of South Asian PTAs with a view to rendering them complimentary to the WTO multilateral trade liberalisation regime. -- As with many other international trade agreements, the SAARC PTAs manifest legal, economic, political and historical undertones and overtones which cannot be captured in a black letter legal study. These diverse issues have necessitated that this thesis adopts an inter-disciplinary approach with a distinct focus on legal rules and norms. It aspires to make a contribution to the greater economic integration among SAARC members. There are surmountable politico-economic constraints to be overcome in achieving greater trade-induced economic integration of SAARC members' economies, largely attributable to certain policies and mindsets that can be addressed through sustained political commitment and economic collaboration in the pursuit of establishing a more functional free trading area in South Asia. The findings of the thesis should also have appeal to the sub-regional PTAs among developing countries and least developed countries (LDCs) in other parts of the world.


Table of Contents

The South Asian PTAs in the context of International Trade Law -- GATT/WTO provisions on Preferential Trade Agreements -- Implications of PTAs for trade-induced global economic welfare -- Developments leading to the South Asian PTAs -- Main features of the SAFTA, SATIS and their consistency with WTO rules -- The SAFTA and the SATIS: their constraints militating against sub-regional trade liberalisation in South Asia -- Recommendations and conclusion.


Australian Digital Theses. Bibliography: p. 332-371

Awarding Institution

Macquarie University

Degree Type

Thesis PhD


Thesis (PhD), Macquarie University, Faculty of Arts, Macquarie Law School

Department, Centre or School

Macquarie Law School

Year of Award


Principal Supervisor

Rafiqul Islam

Additional Supervisor 1

Shawkat Alam


Copyright disclaimer: Copyright Rizwanul Islam 2011. Access to this thesis is restricted to Macquarie University staff and students. Staff and students of Macquarie University should contact to organise access.




South Asia


xxix, 371 p

Former Identifiers

mq:71733 1639567