Susan M. Collinsand Barry P. Bosworth
Intense controversy surrounded the approval of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). The lack of public discussion or academic review of the latest agreement negotiated under the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) is thus surprising. By almost any measure the new agreement will have a more pronounced effect on the U.S. economy than NAFTA. This is true even though the round has frequently been characterized as disappointing relative to the goals it established at its first meeting in Punta del Este, Uruguay, in 1986. The negative assessment arises principally from the absence of large immediate actions to liberalize trade through the reduction of tariffs and nontariff barriers. The traditional focus on barriers to merchandise trade is only a small element of the current agreement, however. In terms of the breadth of issues addressed, the Uruguay Round, the eighth negotiating round under the GATT system, was the most ambitious. Its accomplishments are considerable in broadening the range of trade issues subject to such negotiations and in the extensive efforts to provide more of an institutional framework for monitoring compliance with the agreement and resolving disputes.
A conference was held at the Brookings Institution on July 6, 1994, to review the major features of the agreement and to provide some assessment of its implications for the United States. The four papers presented at that conference, together with discussant comments, are reproduced in this volume. The major issues were covered in four sessions: (1) the likely economic effect of tariffs and quantitative restrictions, the traditional forms of liberalizing merchandise trade; (2) agriculture, where disputes among the major industrial economies over conflicting trade practices held up the negotiations for several years; (3) the new World Trade Organization (WTO), which is designed to provide both a unifying institutional