World Trade after the Uruguay Round: Prospects and Policy Options for the Twenty-First Century

By Harald Sander; András Inotai | Go to book overview

INTRODUCTION

Harald Sander and András Inotai

It took the Uruguay Round of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) more than seven years to finish its ambitious agenda—at least in part. The Round started in September 1986 in Uruguay with the Punta del Este Ministerial Declaration and was terminated in December 1993, about three years behind schedule. It was the longest and most comprehensive round of those periodic multilateral trade negotiations required by the GATT after the first agreement was signed by twenty-three signatory states in 1947. In the Uruguay Round negotiations 117 countries participated of which 88 were developing countries. The agreement came into effect on 1 January 1995 and established the World Trade Organization (WTO) which succeeds on a more comprehensive base what was formerly known as the GATT.

The Uruguay Round (UR) agenda was indeed very ambitious. Next to the traditional goal of GATT-sponsored rounds—to improve market access by negotiating multilateral tariff reductions—it aimed at a roll-back of non-tariff barriers to trade which started mushrooming right after the completion of the preceding Tokyo Round (1973-9) and at strengthening a non-discriminatory world trading system by bringing a wider array of issues under effective multilateral disciplines. Formerly exempted sectors, like textiles, agriculture and services are now included in the new agreements. ‘New issues’, such as trade-related intellectual property rights (TRIPs) and trade-related investment measures (TRIMs) have also been brought under the umbrella of multilateral trade negotiations.

It is interesting to note how these often very detailed negotiations have attracted the attention not only of policy-makers, academics concerned and directly affected groups, but also received the interest of a broad public, including non-governmental organisations active in the fields of development and environmental protection, with the latter actively following the negotiations and often making strong lobbying efforts. Moreover, a number of self-styled trade experts raised their voices, either announcing the imminent breakdown and fragmentation of the world economic system because the GATT will ultimately die, or issuing dark prophecies that a successful completion of the UR will lead to a world of unconstrained profit seeking which

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