The General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade, known as the GATT, is one third of the Bretton Woods system that was created after World War II to ensure a stable trade and economic world environment. The International Monetary Fund (IMF) and World Bank are the other two bodies of the Bretton Woods system. While often referred to as an international organization, the GATT had a "de facto" role as an international organization before the creation of the World Trade Organization (WTO). The WTO was established on January 1, 1995 by the Final Act of the Uruguay Round of negotiations.
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:
TEXT OF THE AGREEMENTS
The official citations for the GATT are: TIAS 1700; 55 UNTS 194. Its Protocol of Provisional Application is located at TIAS 1700; 55 UNTS 308.
The WTO agreement has been published in several volumes of UNTS -- 1867, 1868, and 1869. Consult these volumes for the exact pages that you need.
Sources for the text of GATT and WTO Agreements
After the basic text of the Agreement, you will often need to use the following GATT publications:
Instruments include protocols, agreements, declarations, procès-verbal, memoranda, certifications, or arrangements. Volume IV of the BISD is published annually in numbered supplements with a cumulative subject index for the series in each volume. The latest supplement published to date is No. 42 covering the 51st Session (1995).
Documents from the different negotiating rounds have been reprinted by the GATT and are also often published by commercial publishers. Check in the Librarys GULLiver catalog using the name of the Multilateral Round in a word search: Tokyo, Kennedy, Dillon, Uruguay.
Since the United States is a Contracting Party to the GATT, and now the WTO, you can use Treaties in Force [INTL REF KZ235 .U58] as an index to GATT instruments. Check agreement and accession documents and under "Trade and Commerce GATT related Agreements" for all other treaty document cites. See also multilateral treaty indexes for this information, such as the Multilateral Treaty Calendar [INTL REF KZ118 .W55 1998].
Basic Instruments and Selected Documents (WTO BISD) (Geneva: WTO, 2002-) [INTL REF & INTL KZ185 .A4] Contains similar types of documents as GATT BISD.
The GATT microfiche collection is located in International Media. Please ask for assistance at the Reference Desk of the Wolff Library.
The collection of GATT documents from 1947-1996 in microfiche is not comprehensive because many documents are still confidential. Our collection only includes de-restricted documents. Keep in mind that some GATT documents were never de-restricted. Subject access to the collection is by means of an annual "List and Index" that is located on the shelves in the International Media Room on the first floor of the Library [K4601 .G46]. The pre-1983 list contained a list of documents and a broad subject index. Since 1983, the index has an improved subject list, a list of GATT instrument numbers, a product index and a geographical location index. From 1947-1983, the documents are arranged by GATT document number. From 1984 on, use the "List and Index" to locate the appropriate microfiche number.
The last set of fiche produced by the GATT were the documents from the Uruguay Round of negotiations (designated "UR" on the microfiche). There is a seperate "List and Index" for this collection of documents.
The microfiche collection also includes items that are not specifically documents, e.g. newsletters such as GATT Focus, GATT WTO News, and titles such as the Analytical Index, BISD and Press Releases. The Library also receives and keeps all of these in paper copy. Ask for assistance if you have any questions as to the location of a particular item.
From 1995 to present, WTO documents are available exclusively at the WTO web site ("WTO Official Documents"). It also contains selected material for the period 1986-1994, principally Uruguay Round documents and a small number of GATT documents. The search engine allows for basic and advanced searches. The browse feature allows the user to browse through "frequently-consulted" documents and documents posted in the last month.
We also have been provided some CD-ROMs from the WTO that cover 1997-1999 derestricted documents. If you are interested in using these CDs, please ask at the Reference Desk in the Wolff Library for assistance.
Analytical Index: Guide to GATT Law and Practice (GATT/LEG/2) was recently revised as a two volume publication [INTL REF K4603 .C6 1995]. This is the latest edition of a very useful text; it is also the only one with a detailed subject index. It contains notes on the drafting, interpretation and application of the articles of the GATT. It has references to corresponding articles from the Havana Charter and preceding drafts. Check the introduction for a good, brief description of GATT documentation. The Index provides documents symbols from Preparatory Committee meetings from 1946 on.
The GATT Status of Legal Instruments (GATT/LEG/1) [INTL REF K4602 .C6] covers only the GATT. It provides, for all GATT instruments, the dates signed, entry into force, registration information, names of signatories, a table of contents, a numerical index to the instruments, and an alphabetical and chronological list of Contracting Parties. A WTO Status of Legal Instruments provides the same type of information [INTL REF K4603 1994.A46 S73 1997]. For information after the date of the last supplement, refer to Treaties in Force or check with one of the International Law Librarians.
Dispute settlement is based on the principles contained in Article XXIII of GATT. Panels are established to consider a dispute after other procedures, such as consultations, fail. The sources listed below contain the full text or summaries of panel decisions.
OTHER USEFUL RESOURCES
Tariff and Services Schedules
Current Awareness (good for paper topic ideas)
There are many sites on the Internet which focus on trade and trade-related issues. Listed below is a sampling of some of the sites available. Many of these sites link to other sites. Keep in mind some of the problems with the Internet: there is no authority control, no general indexing, and materials may disappear the next time you use the site. If you cite to something on the Web, be sure to include the URL and the date.
Use the international law or international trade libraries (select these topics under "Area of LawBy Topic"). The relevant sources include:
Subscription Databases and CD-ROMs (GULC only)
This guide was prepared by the staff of the John Wolff International and Comparative Law Library at the Georgetown University Law Center. If you need additional assistance, stop by the reference desk of the library or contact us by phone or email or by filling out this online form.
Revised August 2005
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