This broad scope makes them more robust than other types of trade agreements as soon as all parties sign. Bilateral agreements are easier to negotiate, but only between two countries. While free trade is generally beneficial, removing a trade barrier to a given asset harms shareholders and workers in the domestic industry that produces that good. Some groups that are aggrieved by foreign competition have sufficient political power to protect themselves from imports. As a result, despite their considerable economic costs, trade barriers continue to exist. For example, according to the U.S. International Trade Commission, the U.S. benefit from lifting trade restrictions on textiles and clothing would have been nearly $12 billion in 2002. This is a net economic benefit after deducting losses suffered by businesses and workers in the domestic industry. Nevertheless, local textile producers were able to convince Congress to maintain strict import restrictions. Critics of bilateral and regional approaches to trade liberalization have many additional arguments. They propose that these approaches undermine and supplant the MULTILATERAL approach of the WTO, which must be favoured for global use on a non-discriminatory basis, rather than supporting and complementing it. Therefore, the long-term outcome of bilateralism could be a deterioration of the global trading system into competing and discriminatory regional trading blocs, which could lead to additional complexity that complicates the flow of goods between countries.
In addition, the reform of issues such as agricultural export subsidies cannot be effectively addressed at the bilateral or regional level. The main drawback of multilateral agreements is that they are complex. The details of the negotiations are specific to commercial and commercial practices. This meant that the public was often dissatisfied with them. As a result, they receive a lot of controversy and protests. Another drawback is that small businesses are not able to compete with huge multinationals because of the removal of trade barriers. They often lay off workers to reduce costs. Others transfer their businesses to a participating country where wages are low.
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.