General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT)
Accord général sur les tarifs douaniers et le commerce
Acuerdo General sobre Aranceles Aduaneros y Comercio
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1948-01-01 Geneva Switzerland
1 Jan 1948, Geneva (Switzerland), on coming into force of T-XT4790 - General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade, 1947 (GATT 1947), negotiated in 1947, at a conference convened from 21 Nov 1947, Havana (Cuba), and signed by 23 countries which were at the time engaged in drawing up a charter for a proposed International Trade Organization (ITO) -- Organisation internationale du commerce (OIC) -- Organización Internacional de Comercio (OIC) which would have been a specialized agency of A-XA3375 - United Nations (UN). The General Agreement, based largely on selected parts of the draft ITO charter, was concluded in order to get trade liberalization under way quickly, and was provided with only minimum institutional arrangements because it was expected that responsibility for it would soon be assumed by ITO. However, plans for ITO were abandoned when it became clear that its charter would not be ratified, and GATT was left as the only international instrument laying down trade rules accepted by nations responsible for most of the world's trade. In 1965, a new Part IV, on trade and development, was added to the text of the GATT. As part of its services to developing countries, GATT set up in May 1964 the E-XE2639 - International Trade Centre (ITC), which since 1968 has been jointly operated by GATT and E-XE3381 - UNCTAD, the latter acting through the UN. Interim Commission for the International Trade Organization (ICITO/GATT) -- Commission intérimaire de l'Organisation internationale du commerce, set up Mar 1948, Geneva, to work on the proposed ITO, continued to exist 'de jure', from 1954 in the form of the GATT secretariat in Geneva; its members were the governments of 115 countries. Although not one of the financial institutions set up following the Bretton Woods Conference, 22 Jul 1944, Bretton Woods NH (USA), GATT is nevertheless sometimes included when referring to the E-XE4376 - Bretton Woods Institutions (BWIs). It operated as an autonomous organ within F-XF1000 - United Nations System, linked to E-XE3377 - ECOSOC. Last Annual General Meeting: Dec 1994. As agreed in the Uruguay Round, B-XF2527 - World Trade Organization (WTO), was established 1 Jan 1995, on coming into force of the 'Marrakech Agreement'. The WTO includes the current T-XT9455 - General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade, 1994 (GATT 1994) and implements all the results of the negotiations. GATT as an institution co-existed with WTO until 31 Dec 1995, when it ceased to exist.
GATT is a multilateral treaty embodying reciprocal rights and obligations designed to achieve the objectives set out in the preamble to the Agreement; the Contracting Parties recognize that: their relations in the field of trade and economic endeavour should be conducted with a view to raising standards of living, ensuring full employment and a large and steadily-growing volume of real income and effective demand, developing the full use of the resources of the world and expanding the production and exchange of goods. The detailed undertakings set out in the Agreement, together with a body of case law built up by the Contracting Parties, constitute a general code of conduct covering virtually the whole of commercial relations of member countries. As well as providing a set of trade rules, and machinery for settling disputes, GATT is the forum for Contracting Parties (which account for 90 % of world trade) to work together for liberalization of trade.
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Session of Contracting Parties (usually held annually) is the highest body. Council of Representatives (meeting between sessions, about 9 times a year) deals with both urgent and routine business. GATT Committee on Trade and Development, set up 1965 to follow all GATT activities, expanded following 'Tokyo (Japan) Round' to include two sub-committees to examine: new protective measures by developed countries against imports from developing countries; trade problems of least-developed countries. U-XE0611 - GATT Consultative Group of Eighteen (CG18), established 1975, is composed of a representative group of senior government officials responsible in formulating their countries' trade policies; it helps GATT members carry out some of their major responsibilities more effectively. The Textiles Committee undertakes analysis of developments in world production and trade in textiles and clothing and provides a forum for discussion and cooperation among members. The U-XF0750 - Organe de surveillance des textiles (OST), established by the Textiles Committee, supervises the detailed implementation of T-XT7326 - Arrangement Regarding International Trade in Textiles (Multifibre agreement) or MFA, prolonged in 1991 until 31 Dec 1992. Standing committees and councils oversee the agreements negotiated during the 'Tokyo Round'; they examine: the situation of countries using trade restrictions to protect their balance of payments; tariff concessions; anti-dumping practices; customs valuation; government procurement; subsidies and countervailing measures; import licensing; technical barriers to trade; trade in meat; trade in dairy products; trade in civil aircraft. U-XE0275 - International Dairy Council and U-XE9955 - International Meat Council (IMC) review the functions of T-XT7905 - International Dairy Agreement and T-XT7904 - Arrangement Regarding Bovine Meat respectively. 'Technical Cooperation and Training Division' provides assistance to developing countries in all fields of GATT's work, including: follow-up action to the Tokyo Round and special ministerial meeting of 1982; programme of missions and seminars; evaluation and analysis of the developing countries' commercial interests and identification of export markets to developing countries vis-à-vis the Uruguay Round.
Ad hoc committees or working parties deal with requests for accession, verification that agreements concluded by members are in conformity with GATT and study issues which will later be the subject of joint decisions. Panels of independent experts investigate disputes and report to Council. GATT is administered by a Director-General, who is appointed by the Contracting Parties and who appoints the staff of GATT secretariat. Meetings of the Contracting Parties and of subsidiary bodies are closed. GATT also jointly operates with the United Nations the International Trade Centre (ITC), established in 1964 to act as the focal point for technical co-operation with developing countries in trade promotion.
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