In general, there appear to be incompatible interests of different countries or groups, particularly between developed and developing countries. As public opinion engages at the multilateral level, many nations are beginning to negotiate bilaterally. Bilateral agreements have significantly expanded to more than 50% of the negotiations that took place under these 300 agreements in 2005. This development is considered to be very critical. There are two main views in public opinion: first, bilateral free trade is a first step towards multilateral free trade, while others believe that bilateral trade agreements are discriminatory and lead to a fragmentation of the global trading system and the decline of the multilateral free trade system. The third advantage is that it normalizes trade rules for all trading partners. Businesses save court costs because they follow the same rules for each country. The fourth advantage is that countries can negotiate trade agreements with more than one country at the same time. Trade agreements are subject to a detailed authorisation procedure.
Most countries would prefer to ratify an agreement covering many countries at the same time. All global trade agreements are multilateral. The most successful is the general agreement on trade and customs. Twenty-three countries signed the GATT in 1947. The aim was to reduce tariffs and other trade barriers. The third drawback is common to each trade agreement. Some businesses and parts of the country are suffering from the disappearance of trade borders. The main difference between multilateral and bilateral free trade agreements is the number of participants. Multilateral trade agreements cover three or more countries, without discrimination between the parties concerned, while bilateral trade agreements exist between two countries. Both countries, for example, have certain privileges; they have favourable import quotas that are not available to other trading partners and only to the two nations that have signed the bilateral treaty.
Examples include the Australia-New Zealand-New Zealand Free Trade Agreement and Canada (Dictionary of Political Economy, 2006). Onpulson, 2006).