A preferential trade area (also preferential trade agreement, PTA) is a trading bloc that gives preferential access to certain products from the participating countries. This is done by reducing tariffs but not by abolishing them completely.
A PTA can be established through a trade pact. It is the first stage of economic integration.
The line between a PTA and a free trade area (FTA) may be blurred, as almost any PTA has a main goal of becoming a FTA in accordance with the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade.
These tariff preferences have created numerous departures from the normal trade relations principle, namely that World Trade Organization (WTO) members should apply the same tariff to imports from other WTO members.
With the recent multiplication of bilateral PTAs and the emergence of Mega-PTAs (wide regional trade agreements such as the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) or Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP)), a global trade system exclusively managed within the framework of the WTO now seems unrealistic and the interactions between trade systems have to be taken into account.
The increased complexity of the international trade system generated by the multiplication of PTAs should be taken into account in the study of the choice of fora used by countries or regions to promote their trade relations and environmental agenda.