Regional Trade Agreements (RTAs) are often described as a cornerstone of contemporary international economic relations. There are no doubts that in times of a crisis of multilateral negotiations within a framework of the World Trade Organization (WTO) the regional agreements are driving force of liberalization of trade, and the European Union (EU), which concluded over forty RTAs is a leader in this process. Unlike other states, such as the US, these agreements vary over time, scope and nature and all of these factors can be determinants of the level of economic cooperation between partners. The majority of the EU agreements has a very broad and complex scope. Some of RTAs are concluded as so called association agreements (based on the special legal basis – article 217 of the Treaty on Functioning of the European Union – TFEU). Others can be concluded to supplement an association agreements.
Therefore a scope of concluded RTAs largely encompasses areas related to trade in goods and services. Majority of RTAs covers also significant amount of areas not-related to economy. An enforceability of legal obligation can also differ: some provisions contain only general obligation to cooperation while in others we can find real, legally enforceable obligation, which can be invoked in a dispute. A scope of RTA, as well as its legal character influences economic cooperation between the EU and its partners, although we believe that there are mainly economic factors which really influence economic growth.
In our paper we analyse a content of the EU trade agreements. In the first part we examine which areas are covered by a certain agreement with a given partner, dividing the areas into these covered by the WTO law and not covered (starting point are works of Horn, Mavroidis & Sapir) . To analyse significance of these provisions to economic integration we use gravity models. Such an analyses enables us to formulate some conclusions concerning significance of the EU RTAs, its influence on the EU membership in the WTO as well as the trends in the evolution of the EU RTAs.