This paper gives a short history of the development of preferential trade agreements (PTAs), followed by a summary of the economics of PTAs. The paper then examines the typical coverage of recent PTAs, and assesses their likely economic effects. Political economy considerations mean that PTAs have tended to be selective in two important ways-they have tended to be preferential, even in the provisions that go beyond goods trade, and they have tended to target only those provisions that explicitly discriminate against foreigners. This selectivity means that PTAs are an inferior path to deeper economic integration. For most of the Asian region, comprehensive domestic regulatory reform dominates as an integration strategy, while PTAs deliver relatively trivial gains. Multilateral action is an intermediate strategy, and is important for delivering trade liberalisation in sensitive sectors or in highly protected economies. These results appear to be relatively robust to the size of the PTA grouping.