The potential benefits of removing the remaining trade barriers are considerable. Estimates of the benefits from removing all barriers to merchandise trade range from $250 billion to $680 billion per year. About two-thirds of these profits would go to industrialized countries. However, the amount that goes to developing countries would be even more than double the aid they currently receive. Moreover, developing countries, as a percentage of their GDP, would benefit more from global trade liberalization than industrialized countries, because their economies are better protected and they face higher barriers. The failure to open a new round of multilateral trade negotiations at the 1999 WTO conference in Seattle was a setback for the international trading system. Such large-scale multilateral negotiations are particularly important because they provide countries with the opportunity to obtain visible benefits for their exporters from the opening of markets by other countries. This perspective provides more incentives for countries to open their own markets and overcome the resistance of entrenched, protected interests. In this way, the trade liberalisation packages that are under way for these negotiations will ensure that they benefit all participating countries.
The European Commission reports annually on the implementation of its main trade agreements in the previous calendar year. In recent decades, the global economy has grown rapidly. This growth was partly driven by an even faster rise in international trade. Trade growth, in turn, is the result of both technological developments and concerted efforts to reduce trade barriers. Some developing countries have opened up their own economies to fully exploit economic development opportunities through trade, but many have not. Other trade barriers in industrialized countries are concentrated in agricultural products and labour-intensive industries, in which developing countries have a comparative advantage. Continued trade liberalization in these areas, particularly by developed and developing countries, would help the poorest to escape extreme poverty, while benefiting the industrialized countries themselves. Free trade agreements are treaties that regulate the tariffs, taxes and tariffs that countries collect for their imports and exports. The most well-known regional trade agreement in the United States is the North American Free Trade Agreement. Currently, the United States has 14 free trade agreements with 20 countries.