HISTORY AND BASIC INFORMATION
After World War II, the United Kingdom and the United States submitted proposals to the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) of the United Nations regarding the establishment of an international trade body that was to be named the International Trade Organization (ITO). That is, perhaps, why the GATT is often referred to as a UN related body and its documents are sometimes mistakenly referred to as UN documents.
ECOSOC convened a conference, the United Nations Conference on Trade and Employment in 1946 to consider the UK and U.S. proposals. A Preparatory Committee drafted the ITO Charter and it was approved in 1948 at the conference in Havana, Cuba. The Charter is often referred to as the Havana Charter or the ITO Charter.
The first round of trade negotiations took place while the Preparatory Committee was still working on drafting the Charter because the participants were anxious to begin the process of trade liberalization as soon as possible. Their results were incorporated into the General Agreement, which was signed in 1947.
Since the original signatory nations expected the Agreement to become part of the more permanent ITO Charter, the text of the GATT contains very little "institutional" structure. This lack of detail within the agreement has created increasing difficulties as the GATT membership and roles governing trade between so many of the world's nations have grown. The GATT has functioned as an international organization for many years even though it has never been formalized as such.
ECOSOC established an Interim Commission for the ITO that is referred to as ICITO. Unfortunately, when it came time for the members to ratify the ITO Charter, the Congress of the United States refused and the ITO never became a reality. The GATT survived, but remained intact only due to the Protocol of Provisional Application of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade which was concluded in 1947 and which entered into force in 1948.
The GATT completed 8 rounds of multilateral trade negotiations (MTNs). The Uruguay Round (the 8th round) concluded with the signing of the Final Act on April 15, 1994, in Marrakesh, and produced the World Trade Agreement (WTO) and its annexes.
THE CONTRACTING PARTIES:
Revised August 2005
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