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Yamini Bhaskar
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WTO - January 10th, 2009

WTO
Essentially, the WTO is a place where member governments go, to try to sort out the trade problems they face with each other.
At its heart are the WTO agreements, negotiated and signed by the bulk of the world’s trading nations.
But the WTO is not just about liberalizing trade, and in some circumstances its rules support maintaining trade barriers — for example to protect consumers, prevent the spread of disease or protect the environment.
There are a number of ways of looking at the WTO. It’s an organization for liberalizing trade. It’s a forum for governments to negotiate trade agreements. It’s a place for them to settle trade disputes. It operates a system of trade rules. (But it’s not Superman, just in case anyone thought it could solve — or cause — all the world’s problems!) Above all, it’s a negotiating forum … Essentially, the WTO is a place where member governments go, to try to sort out the trade problems they face with each other. The first step is to talk. The WTO was born out of negotiations, and everything the WTO does is the result of negotiations. The bulk of the WTO's current work comes from the 1986-94 negotiations called the Uruguay Round and earlier negotiations under the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT). The WTO is currently the host to new negotiations, under the “Doha Development Agenda” launched in 2001.
Where countries have faced trade barriers and wanted them lowered, the negotiations have helped to liberalize trade. But the WTO is not just about liberalizing trade, and in some circumstances its rules support maintaining trade barriers — for example to protect consumers or prevent the spread of disease.
It’s a set of rules … At its heart are the WTO agreements, negotiated and signed by the bulk of the world’s trading nations. These documents provide the legal ground-rules for international commerce. They are essentially contracts, binding governments to keep their trade policies within agreed limits. Although negotiated and signed by governments, the goal is to help producers of goods and services, exporters, and importers conduct their business, while allowing governments to meet social and environmental objectives.
The system’s overriding purpose is to help trade flow as freely as possible — so long as there are no undesirable side-effects — because this is important for economic development and well-being. That partly means removing obstacles. It also means ensuring that individuals, companies and governments know what the trade rules are around the world, and giving them the confidence that there will be no sudden changes of policy. In other words, the rules have to be “transparent” and predictable.
And it helps to settle disputes … This is a third important side to the WTO’s work. Trade relations often involve conflicting interests. Agreements, including those painstakingly negotiated in the WTO system, often need interpreting. The most harmonious way to settle these differences is through some neutral procedure based on an agreed legal foundation. That is the purpose behind the dispute settlement process written into the WTO agreements.
The WTO began life on 1 January 1995, but its trading system is half a century older. Since 1948, the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) had provided the rules for the system. (The second WTO ministerial meeting, held in Geneva in May 1998, included a celebration of the 50th anniversary of the system.)
It did not take long for the General Agreement to give birth to an unofficial, de facto international organization, also known informally as GATT. Over the years GATT evolved through several rounds of negotiations.
The last and largest GATT round, was the Uruguay Round which lasted from 1986 to 1994 and led to the WTO’s creation. Whereas GATT had mainly dealt with trade in goods, the WTO and its agreements now cover trade in services, and in traded inventions, creations and designs (intellectual property).
Principles of the trading system
The WTO agreements are lengthy and complex because they are legal texts covering a wide range of activities. They deal with: agriculture, textiles and clothing, banking, telecommunications, government purchases, industrial standards and product safety, food sanitation regulations, intellectual property, and much more. But a number of simple, fundamental principles run throughout all of these documents. These principles are the foundation of the multilateral trading system.
Trade without discrimination
1. Most-favoured-nation (MFN): treating other people equally Under the WTO agreements, countries cannot normally discriminate between their trading partners. Grant someone a special favour (such as a lower customs duty rate for one of their products) and you have to do the same for all other WTO members.
This principle is known as most-favoured-nation (MFN) treatment (see box). It is so important that it is the first article of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT), which governs trade in goods. MFN is also a priority in the General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS) (Article 2) and the Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) (Article 4), although in each agreement the principle is handled slightly differently. Together, those three agreements cover all three main areas of trade handled by the WTO.
Some exceptions are allowed. For example, countries can set up a free trade agreement that applies only to goods traded within the group — discriminating against goods from outside. Or they can give developing countries special access to their markets. Or a country can raise barriers against products that are considered to be traded unfairly from specific countries. And in services, countries are allowed, in limited circumstances, to discriminate. But the agreements only permit these exceptions under strict conditions. In general, MFN means that every time a country lowers a trade barrier or opens up a market, it has to do so for the same goods or services from all its trading partners — whether rich or poor, weak or strong
2. National treatment: Treating foreigners and locals equally Imported and locally-produced goods should be treated equally — at least after the foreign goods have entered the market. The same should apply to foreign and domestic services, and to foreign and local trademarks, copyrights and patents. This principle of “national treatment” (giving others the same treatment as one’s own nationals) is also found in all the three main WTO agreements (Article 3 of GATT, Article 17 of GATS and Article 3 of TRIPS), although once again the principle is handled slightly differently in each of these.
National treatment only applies once a product, service or item of intellectual property has entered the market. Therefore, charging customs duty on an import is not a violation of national treatment even if locally-produced products are not charged an equivalent tax.

Freer trade: gradually, through negotiation
Lowering trade barriers is one of the most obvious means of encouraging trade. The barriers concerned include customs duties (or tariffs) and measures such as import bans or quotas that restrict quantities selectively. From time to time other issues such as red tape and exchange rate policies have also been discussed.
Since GATT’s creation in 1947-48 there have been eight rounds of trade negotiations. A ninth round, under the Doha Development Agenda, is now underway. At first these focused on lowering tariffs (customs duties) on imported goods. As a result of the negotiations, by the mid-1990s industrial countries’ tariff rates on industrial goods had fallen steadily to less than 4%.
But by the 1980s, the negotiations had expanded to cover non-tariff barriers on goods, and to the new areas such as services and intellectual property.
Opening markets can be beneficial, but it also requires adjustment. The WTO agreements allow countries to introduce changes gradually, through “progressive liberalization”. Developing countries are usually given longer to fulfil their obligations.

Predictability: through binding and transparency
Sometimes, promising not to raise a trade barrier can be as important as lowering one, because the promise gives businesses a clearer view of their future opportunities. With stability and predictability, investment is encouraged, jobs are created and consumers can fully enjoy the benefits of competition — choice and lower prices. The multilateral trading system is an attempt by governments to make the business environment stable and predictable.
The Uruguay Round increased bindings
Percentages of tariffs bound before and after the 1986-94 talks
Before After
Developed countries 78 99
Developing countries 21 73
Transition economies 73 98
(These are tariff lines, so percentages are not weighted according to trade volume or value)
In the WTO, when countries agree to open their markets for goods or services, they “bind” their commitments. For goods, these bindings amount to ceilings on customs tariff rates. Sometimes countries tax imports at rates that are lower than the bound rates. Frequently this is the case in developing countries. In developed countries the rates actually charged and the bound rates tend to be the same.
A country can change its bindings, but only after negotiating with its trading partners, which could mean compensating them for loss of trade. One of the achievements of the Uruguay Round of multilateral trade talks was to increase the amount of trade under binding commitments (see table). In agriculture, 100% of products now have bound tariffs. The result of all this: a substantially higher degree of market security for traders and investors.
The system tries to improve predictability and stability in other ways as well. One way is to discourage the use of quotas and other measures used to set limits on quantities of imports — administering quotas can lead to more red-tape and accusations of unfair play. Another is to make countries’ trade rules as clear and public (“transparent”) as possible. Many WTO agreements require governments to disclose their policies and practices publicly within the country or by notifying the WTO. The regular surveillance of national trade policies through the Trade Policy Review Mechanism provides a further means of encouraging transparency both domestically and at the multilateral level.

Promoting fair competition
The WTO is sometimes described as a “free trade” institution, but that is not entirely accurate. The system does allow tariffs and, in limited circumstances, other forms of protection. More accurately, it is a system of rules dedicated to open, fair and undistorted competition.
The rules on non-discrimination — MFN and national treatment — are designed to secure fair conditions of trade. So too are those on dumping (exporting at below cost to gain market share) and subsidies. The issues are complex, and the rules try to establish what is fair or unfair, and how governments can respond, in particular by charging additional import duties calculated to compensate for damage caused by unfair trade.
Many of the other WTO agreements aim to support fair competition: in agriculture, intellectual property, services, for example. The agreement on government procurement (a “plurilateral” agreement because it is signed by only a few WTO members) extends competition rules to purchases by thousands of government entities in many countries. And so on.

Encouraging development and economic reform
The WTO system contributes to development. On the other hand, developing countries need flexibility in the time they take to implement the system’s agreements. And the agreements themselves inherit the earlier provisions of GATT that allow for special assistance and trade concessions for developing countries.
Over three quarters of WTO members are developing countries and countries in transition to market economies. During the seven and a half years of the Uruguay Round, over 60 of these countries implemented trade liberalization programmes autonomously. At the same time, developing countries and transition economies were much more active and influential in the Uruguay Round negotiations than in any previous round, and they are even more so in the current Doha Development Agenda.
At the end of the Uruguay Round, developing countries were prepared to take on most of the obligations that are required of developed countries. But the agreements did give them transition periods to adjust to the more unfamiliar and, perhaps, difficult WTO provisions — particularly so for the poorest, “least-developed” countries. A ministerial decision adopted at the end of the round says better-off countries should accelerate implementing market access commitments on goods exported by the least-developed countries, and it seeks increased technical assistance for them. More recently, developed countries have started to allow duty-free and quota-free imports for almost all products from least-developed countries. On all of this, the WTO and its members are still going through a learning process. The current Doha Development Agenda includes developing countries’ concerns about the difficulties they face in implementing the Uruguay Round agreements.

The case for open trade
The economic case for an open trading system based on multilaterally agreed rules is simple enough and rests largely on commercial common sense. But it is also supported by evidence: the experience of world trade and economic growth since the Second World War. Tariffs on industrial products have fallen steeply and now average less than 5% in industrial countries. During the first 25 years after the war, world economic growth averaged about 5% per year, a high rate that was partly the result of lower trade barriers. World trade grew even faster, averaging about 8% during the period.

The data show a definite statistical link between freer trade and economic growth. Economic theory points to strong reasons for the link. All countries, including the poorest, have assets — human, industrial, natural, financial — which they can employ to produce goods and services for their domestic markets or to compete overseas. Economics tells us that we can benefit when these goods and services are traded. Simply put, the principle of “comparative advantage” says that countries prosper first by taking advantage of their assets in order to concentrate on what they can produce best, and then by trading these products for products that other countries produce best.
In other words, liberal trade policies — policies that allow the unrestricted flow of goods and services — sharpen competition, motivate innovation and breed success. They multiply the rewards that result from producing the best products, with the best design, at the best price.
But success in trade is not static. The ability to compete well in particular products can shift from company to company when the market changes or new technologies make cheaper and better products possible. Producers are encouraged to adapt gradually and in a relatively painless way. They can focus on new products, find a new “niche” in their current area or expand into new areas.
Experience shows that competitiveness can also shift between whole countries. A country that may have enjoyed an advantage because of lower labour costs or because it had good supplies of some natural resources, could also become uncompetitive in some goods or services as its economy develops. However, with the stimulus of an open economy, the country can move on to become competitive in some other goods or services. This is normally a gradual process.
Nevertheless, the temptation to ward off the challenge of competitive imports is always present. And richer governments are more likely to yield to the siren call of protectionism, for short term political gain — through subsidies, complicated red tape, and hiding behind legitimate policy objectives such as environmental preservation or consumer protection as an excuse to protect producers.
Protection ultimately leads to bloated, inefficient producers supplying consumers with outdated, unattractive products. In the end, factories close and jobs are lost despite the protection and subsidies. If other governments around the world pursue the same policies, markets contract and world economic activity is reduced. One of the objectives that governments bring to WTO negotiations is to prevent such a self-defeating and destructive drift into protectionism.

Comparative advantage
This is arguably the single most powerful insight into economics.
Suppose country A is better than country B at making automobiles, and country B is better than country A at making bread. It is obvious (the academics would say “trivial”) that both would benefit if A specialized in automobiles, B specialized in bread and they traded their products. That is a case of absolute advantage.
But what if a country is bad at making everything? Will trade drive all producers out of business? The answer, according to Ricardo, is no. The reason is the principle of comparative advantage.
It says, countries A and B still stand to benefit from trading with each other even if A is better than B at making everything. If A is much more superior at making automobiles and only slightly superior at making bread, then A should still invest resources in what it does best — producing automobiles — and export the product to B. B should still invest in what it does best — making bread — and export that product to A, even if it is not as efficient as A. Both would still benefit from the trade. A country does not have to be best at anything to gain from trade. That is comparative advantage.
The theory dates back to classical economist David Ricardo. It is one of the most widely accepted among economists. It is also one of the most misunderstood among non-economists because it is confused with absolute advantage.
It is often claimed, for example, that some countries have no comparative advantage in anything. That is virtually impossible.
The GATT years: from Havana to Marrakesh
The WTO’s creation on 1 January 1995 marked the biggest reform of international trade since after the Second World War. It also brought to reality — in an updated form — the failed attempt in 1948 to create an International Trade Organization
Much of the history of those 47 years was written in Geneva. But it also traces a journey that spanned the continents, from that hesitant start in 1948 in Havana (Cuba), via Annecy (France), Torquay (UK), Tokyo (Japan), Punta del Este (Uruguay), Montreal (Canada), Brussels (Belgium) and finally to Marrakesh (Morocco) in 1994. During that period, the trading system came under GATT, salvaged from the aborted attempt to create the ITO. GATT helped establish a strong and prosperous multilateral trading system that became more and more liberal through rounds of trade negotiations. But by the 1980s the system needed a thorough overhaul. This led to the Uruguay Round, and ultimately to the WTO.
GATT: ‘provisional’ for almost half a century back to top
From 1948 to 1994, the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) provided the rules for much of world trade and presided over periods that saw some of the highest growth rates in international commerce. It seemed well-established, but throughout those 47 years, it was a provisional agreement and organization.
The original intention was to create a third institution to handle the trade side of international economic cooperation, joining the two “Bretton Woods” institutions, the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund. Over 50 countries participated in negotiations to create an International Trade Organization (ITO) as a specialized agency of the United Nations. The draft ITO Charter was ambitious. It extended beyond world trade disciplines, to include rules on employment, commodity agreements, restrictive business practices, international investment, and services. The aim was to create the ITO at a UN Conference on Trade and Employment in Havana, Cuba in 1947.
Meanwhile, 15 countries had begun talks in December 1945 to reduce and bind customs tariffs. With the Second World War only recently ended, they wanted to give an early boost to trade liberalization, and to begin to correct the legacy of protectionist measures which remained in place from the early 1930s.
This first round of negotiations resulted in a package of trade rules and 45,000 tariff concessions affecting $10 billion of trade, about one fifth of the world’s total. The group had expanded to 23 by the time the deal was signed on 30 October 1947. The tariff concessions came into effect by 30 June 1948 through a “Protocol of Provisional Application”. And so the new General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade was born, with 23 founding members (officially “contracting parties”).
The 23 were also part of the larger group negotiating the ITO Charter. One of the provisions of GATT says that they should accept some of the trade rules of the draft. This, they believed, should be done swiftly and “provisionally” in order to protect the value of the tariff concessions they had negotiated. They spelt out how they envisaged the relationship between GATT and the ITO Charter, but they also allowed for the possibility that the ITO might not be created. They were right.
The Havana conference began on 21 November 1947, less than a month after GATT was signed. The ITO Charter was finally agreed in Havana in March 1948, but ratification in some national legislatures proved impossible. The most serious opposition was in the US Congress, even though the US government had been one of the driving forces. In 1950, the United States government announced that it would not seek Congressional ratification of the Havana Charter, and the ITO was effectively dead. So, the GATT became the only multilateral instrument governing international trade from 1948 until the WTO was established in 1995.
For almost half a century, the GATT’s basic legal principles remained much as they were in 1948. There were additions in the form of a section on development added in the 1960s and “plurilateral” agreements (i.e. with voluntary membership) in the 1970s, and efforts to reduce tariffs further continued. Much of this was achieved through a series of multilateral negotiations known as “trade rounds” — the biggest leaps forward in international trade liberalization have come through these rounds which were held under GATT’s auspices.
In the early years, the GATT trade rounds concentrated on further reducing tariffs. Then, the Kennedy Round in the mid-sixties brought about a GATT Anti-Dumping Agreement and a section on development. The Tokyo Round during the seventies was the first major attempt to tackle trade barriers that do not take the form of tariffs, and to improve the system. The eighth, the Uruguay Round of 1986-94, was the last and most extensive of all. It led to the WTO and a new set of agreements.

The Tokyo Round: a first try to reform the system
The Tokyo Round lasted from 1973 to 1979, with 102 countries participating. It continued GATT’s efforts to progressively reduce tariffs. The results included an average one-third cut in customs duties in the world’s nine major industrial markets, bringing the average tariff on industrial products down to 4.7%. The tariff reductions, phased in over a period of eight years, involved an element of “harmonization” — the higher the tariff, the larger the cut, proportionally.
In other issues, the Tokyo Round had mixed results. It failed to come to grips with the fundamental problems affecting farm trade and also stopped short of providing a modified agreement on “safeguards” (emergency import measures). Nevertheless, a series of agreements on non-tariff barriers did emerge from the negotiations, in some cases interpreting existing GATT rules, in others breaking entirely new ground. In most cases, only a relatively small number of (mainly industrialized) GATT members subscribed to these agreements and arrangements. Because they were not accepted by the full GATT membership, they were often informally called “codes”.
They were not multilateral, but they were a beginning. Several codes were eventually amended in the Uruguay Round and turned into multilateral commitments accepted by all WTO members. Only four remained “plurilateral” — those on government procurement, bovine meat, civil aircraft and dairy products. In 1997 WTO members agreed to terminate the bovine meat and dairy agreements, leaving only two.

Did GATT succeed?
GATT was provisional with a limited field of action, but its success over 47 years in promoting and securing the liberalization of much of world trade is incontestable. Continual reductions in tariffs alone helped spur very high rates of world trade growth during the 1950s and 1960s — around 8% a year on average. And the momentum of trade liberalization helped ensure that trade growth consistently out-paced production growth throughout the GATT era, a measure of countries’ increasing ability to trade with each other and to reap the benefits of trade. The rush of new members during the Uruguay Round demonstrated that the multilateral trading system was recognized as an anchor for development and an instrument of economic and trade reform.
But all was not well. As time passed new problems arose. The Tokyo Round in the 1970s was an attempt to tackle some of these but its achievements were limited. This was a sign of difficult times to come.
GATT’s success in reducing tariffs to such a low level, combined with a series of economic recessions in the 1970s and early 1980s, drove governments to devise other forms of protection for sectors facing increased foreign competition. High rates of unemployment and constant factory closures led governments in Western Europe and North America to seek bilateral market-sharing arrangements with competitors and to embark on a subsidies race to maintain their holds on agricultural trade. Both these changes undermined GATT’s credibility and effectiveness.
The problem was not just a deteriorating trade policy environment. By the early 1980s the General Agreement was clearly no longer as relevant to the realities of world trade as it had been in the 1940s. For a start, world trade had become far more complex and important than 40 years before: the globalization of the world economy was underway, trade in services — not covered by GATT rules — was of major interest to more and more countries, and international investment had expanded. The expansion of services trade was also closely tied to further increases in world merchandise trade. In other respects, GATT had been found wanting. For instance, in agriculture, loopholes in the multilateral system were heavily exploited, and efforts at liberalizing agricultural trade met with little success. In the textiles and clothing sector, an exception to GATT’s normal disciplines was negotiated in the 1960s and early 1970s, leading to the Multifibre Arrangement. Even GATT’s institutional structure and its dispute settlement system were causing concern.
These and other factors convinced GATT members that a new effort to reinforce and extend the multilateral system should be attempted. That effort resulted in the Uruguay Round, the Marrakesh Declaration, and the creation of the WTO.
The Uruguay Round
It took seven and a half years, almost twice the original schedule. By the end, 123 countries were taking part. It covered almost all trade, from toothbrushes to pleasure boats, from banking to telecommunications, from the genes of wild rice to AIDS treatments. It was quite simply the largest trade negotiation ever, and most probably the largest negotiation of any kind in history
At times it seemed doomed to fail. But in the end, the Uruguay Round brought about the biggest reform of the world’s trading system since GATT was created at the end of the Second World War. And yet, despite its troubled progress, the Uruguay Round did see some early results. Within only two years, participants had agreed on a package of cuts in import duties on tropical products — which are mainly exported by developing countries. They had also revised the rules for settling disputes, with some measures implemented on the spot. And they called for regular reports on GATT members’ trade policies, a move considered important for making trade regimes transparent around the world.

A round to end all rounds?
The seeds of the Uruguay Round were sown in November 1982 at a ministerial meeting of GATT members in Geneva. Although the ministers intended to launch a major new negotiation, the conference stalled on agriculture and was widely regarded as a failure. In fact, the work programme that the ministers agreed formed the basis for what was to become the Uruguay Round negotiating agenda.
Nevertheless, it took four more years of exploring, clarifying issues and painstaking consensus-building, before ministers agreed to launch the new round. They did so in September 1986, in Punta del Este, Uruguay. They eventually accepted a negotiating agenda that covered virtually every outstanding trade policy issue. The talks were going to extend the trading system into several new areas, notably trade in services and intellectual property, and to reform trade in the sensitive sectors of agriculture and textiles. All the original GATT articles were up for review. It was the biggest negotiating mandate on trade ever agreed, and the ministers gave themselves four years to complete it.
Two years later, in December 1988, ministers met again in Montreal, Canada, for what was supposed to be an assessment of progress at the round’s half-way point. The purpose was to clarify the agenda for the remaining two years, but the talks ended in a deadlock that was not resolved until officials met more quietly in Geneva the following April.
Despite the difficulty, during the Montreal meeting, ministers did agree a package of early results. These included some concessions on market access for tropical products — aimed at assisting developing countries — as well as a streamlined dispute settlement system, and the Trade Policy Review Mechanism which provided for the first comprehensive, systematic and regular reviews of national trade policies and practices of GATT members. The round was supposed to end when ministers met once more in Brussels, in December 1990. But they disagreed on how to reform agricultural trade and decided to extend the talks. The Uruguay Round entered its bleakest period.
Despite the poor political outlook, a considerable amount of technical work continued, leading to the first draft of a final legal agreement. This draft “Final Act” was compiled by the then GATT director-general, Arthur Dunkel, who chaired the negotiations at officials’ level. It was put on the table in Geneva in December 1991. The text fulfilled every part of the Punta del Este mandate, with one exception — it did not contain the participating countries’ lists of commitments for cutting import duties and opening their services markets. The draft became the basis for the final agreement.
Over the following two years, the negotiations lurched between impending failure, to predictions of imminent success. Several deadlines came and went. New points of major conflict emerged to join agriculture: services, market access, anti-dumping rules, and the proposed creation of a new institution. Differences between the United States and European Union became central to hopes for a final, successful conclusion.
In November 1992, the US and EU settled most of their differences on agriculture in a deal known informally as the “Blair House accord”. By July 1993 the “Quad” (US, EU, Japan and Canada) announced significant progress in negotiations on tariffs and related subjects (“market access”). It took until 15 December 1993 for every issue to be finally resolved and for negotiations on market access for goods and services to be concluded (although some final touches were completed in talks on market access a few weeks later). On 15 April 1994, the deal was signed by ministers from most of the 123 participating governments at a meeting in Marrakesh, Morocco.
The delay had some merits. It allowed some negotiations to progress further than would have been possible in 1990: for example some aspects of services and intellectual property, and the creation of the WTO itself. But the task had been immense, and negotiation-fatigue was felt in trade bureaucracies around the world. The difficulty of reaching agreement on a complete package containing almost the entire range of current trade issues led some to conclude that a negotiation on this scale would never again be possible. Yet, the Uruguay Round agreements contain timetables for new negotiations on a number of topics. And by 1996, some countries were openly calling for a new round early in the next century. The response was mixed; but the Marrakesh agreement did already include commitments to reopen negotiations on agriculture and services at the turn of the century. These began in early 2000 and were incorporated into the Doha Development Agenda in late 2001.

What happened to GATT?
The WTO replaced GATT as an international organization, but the General Agreement still exists as the WTO’s umbrella treaty for trade in goods, updated as a result of the Uruguay Round negotiations. Trade lawyers distinguish between GATT 1994, the updated parts of GATT, and GATT 1947, the original agreement which is still the heart of GATT 1994. Confusing? For most of us, it’s enough to refer simply to “GATT”.

The post-Uruguay Round built-in agenda
Many of the Uruguay Round agreements set timetables for future work. Part of this “built-in agenda” started almost immediately. In some areas, it included new or further negotiations. In other areas, it included assessments or reviews of the situation at specified times. Some negotiations were quickly completed, notably in basic telecommunications, financial services. (Member governments also swiftly agreed a deal for freer trade in information technology products, an issue outside the “built-in agenda”.)
The agenda originally built into the Uruguay Round agreements has seen additions and modifications. A number of items are now part of the Doha Agenda, some of them updated.
There were well over 30 items in the original built-in agenda. This is a selection of highlights:
1996
• Maritime services: market access negotiations to end (30 June 1996, suspended to 2000, now part of Doha Development Agenda)
• Services and environment: deadline for working party report (ministerial conference, December 1996)
• Government procurement of services: negotiations start
1997
• Basic telecoms: negotiations end (15 February)
• Financial services: negotiations end (30 December)
• Intellectual property, creating a multilateral system of notification and registration of geographical indications for wines: negotiations start, now part of Doha Development Agenda
1998
• Textiles and clothing: new phase begins 1 January
• Services (emergency safeguards): results of negotiations on emergency safeguards to take effect (by 1 January 1998, deadline now March 2004)
• Rules of origin: Work programme on harmonization of rules of origin to be completed (20 July 1998)
• Government procurement: further negotiations start, for improving rules and procedures (by end of 1998)
• Dispute settlement: full review of rules and procedures (to start by end of 1998)
1999
• Intellectual property: certain exceptions to patentability and protection of plant varieties: review starts
2000
• Agriculture: negotiations start, now part of Doha Development Agenda
• Services: new round of negotiations start, now part of Doha Development Agenda
• Tariff bindings: review of definition of “principle supplier” having negotiating rights under GATT Art 28 on modifying bindings
• Intellectual property: first of two-yearly reviews of the implementation of the agreement
2002
• Textiles and clothing: new phase begins 1 January
2005
• Textiles and clothing: full integration into GATT and agreement expires 1 January

Tariffs:
The bulkiest results of Uruguay Round are the 22,500 pages listing individual countries’ commitments on specific categories of goods and services. These include commitments to cut and “bind” their customs duty rates on imports of goods. In some cases, tariffs are being cut to zero. There is also a significant increase in the number of “bound” tariffs — duty rates that are committed in the WTO and are difficult to raise Tariff cuts
Developed countries’ tariff cuts were for the most part phased in over five years from 1 January 1995. The result is a 40% cut in their tariffs on industrial products, from an average of 6.3% to 3.8%. The value of imported industrial products that receive duty-free treatment in developed countries will jump from 20% to 44%.
There will also be fewer products charged high duty rates. The proportion of imports into developed countries from all sources facing tariffs rates of more than 15% will decline from 7% to 5%. The proportion of developing country exports facing tariffs above 15% in industrial countries will fall from 9% to 5%.
The Uruguay Round package has been improved. On 26 March 1997, 40 countries accounting for more than 92% of world trade in information technology products, agreed to eliminate import duties and other charges on these products by 2000 (by 2005 in a handful of cases). As with other tariff commitments, each participating country is applying its commitments equally to exports from all WTO members (i.e. on a most-favoured-nation basis), even from members that did not make commitments.

More bindings
Developed countries increased the number of imports whose tariff rates are “bound” (committed and difficult to increase) from 78% of product lines to 99%. For developing countries, the increase was considerable: from 21% to 73%. Economies in transition from central planning increased their bindings from 73% to 98%. This all means a substantially higher degree of market security for traders and investors.
agriculture
Tariffs on all agricultural products are now bound. Almost all import restrictions that did not take the form of tariffs, such as quotas, have been converted to tariffs — a process known as “tariffication”. This has made markets substantially more predictable for agriculture. Previously more than 30% of agricultural produce had faced quotas or import restrictions. The first step in “tariffication” was to replace these restrictions with tariffs that represented about the same level of protection. Then, over six years from 1995-2000, these tariffs were gradually reduced (the reduction period for developing countries ends in 2005). The market access commitments on agriculture also eliminate previous import bans on certain products.
In addition, the lists include countries’ commitments to reduce domestic support and export subsidies for agricultural products.
Agriculture: fairer markets for farmers
The original GATT did apply to agricultural trade, but it contained loopholes. For example, it allowed countries to use some non-tariff measures such as import quotas, and to subsidize. Agricultural trade became highly distorted, especially with the use of export subsidies which would not normally have been allowed for industrial products. The Uruguay Round produced the first multilateral agreement dedicated to the sector. It was a significant first step towards order, fair competition and a less distorted sector. It was implemented over a six year period (and is still being implemented by developing countries under their 10-year period), that began in 1995. The Uruguay Round agreement included a commitment to continue the reform through new negotiations. These were launched in 2000, as required by the Agriculture Agreement.
The Agriculture Agreement: new rules and commitments
The objective of the Agriculture Agreement is to reform trade in the sector and to make policies more market-oriented. This would improve predictability and security for importing and exporting countries alike.
The new rules and commitments apply to:
• market access — various trade restrictions confronting imports
• domestic support — subsidies and other programmes, including those that raise or guarantee farmgate prices and farmers’ incomes
• export subsidies and other methods used to make exports artificially competitive.
The agreement does allow governments to support their rural economies, but preferably through policies that cause less distortion to trade. It also allows some flexibility in the way commitments are implemented. Developing countries do not have to cut their subsidies or lower their tariffs as much as developed countries, and they are given extra time to complete their obligations. Least-developed countries don’t have to do this at all. Special provisions deal with the interests of countries that rely on imports for their food supplies, and the concerns of least-developed economies.
“Peace” provisions within the agreement aim to reduce the likelihood of disputes or challenges on agricultural subsidies over a period of nine years, until the end of 2003.

Market access: ‘tariffs only’, please
The new rule for market access in agricultural products is “tariffs only”. Before the Uruguay Round, some agricultural imports were restricted by quotas and other non-tariff measures. These have been replaced by tariffs that provide more-or-less equivalent levels of protection — if the previous policy meant domestic prices were 75% higher than world prices, then the new tariff could be around 75%. (Converting the quotas and other types of measures to tariffs in this way was called “tariffication”.)

The tariffication package contained more. It ensured that quantities imported before the agreement took effect could continue to be imported, and it guaranteed that some new quantities were charged duty rates that were not prohibitive. This was achieved by a system of “tariff-quotas” — lower tariff rates for specified quantities, higher (sometimes much higher) rates for quantities that exceed the quota.
The newly committed tariffs and tariff quotas, covering all agricultural products, took effect in 1995. Uruguay Round participants agreed that developed countries would cut the tariffs (the higher out-of-quota rates in the case of tariff-quotas) by an average of 36%, in equal steps over six years. Developing countries would make 24% cuts over 10 years. Several developing countries also used the option of offering ceiling tariff rates in cases where duties were not “bound” (i.e. committed under GATT or WTO regulations) before the Uruguay Round. Least-developed countries do not have to cut their tariffs. (These figures do not actually appear in the Agriculture Agreement. Participants used them to prepare their schedules — i.e. lists of commitments. It is the commitments listed in the schedules that are legally binding.)
For products whose non-tariff restrictions have been converted to tariffs, governments are allowed to take special emergency actions (“special safeguards”) in order to prevent swiftly falling prices or surges in imports from hurting their farmers. But the agreement specifies when and how those emergency actions can be introduced (for example, they cannot be used on imports within a tariff-quota).
Four countries used “special treatment” provisions to restrict imports of particularly sensitive products (mainly rice) during the implementation period (to 2000 for developed countries, to 2004 for developing nations), but subject to strictly defined conditions, including minimum access for overseas suppliers. The four were: Japan, Rep. of Korea, and the Philippines for rice; and Israel for sheepmeat, wholemilk powder and certain cheeses. Japan and Israel have now given up this right, but Rep. of Korea and the Philippines have extended their special treatment for rice. A new member, Chinese Taipei, gave special treatment to rice in its first year of membership, 2002.

Domestic support: some you can, some you can’t
The main complaint about policies which support domestic prices, or subsidize production in some other way, is that they encourage over-production. This squeezes out imports or leads to export subsidies and low-priced dumping on world markets. The Agriculture Agreement distinguishes between support programmes that stimulate production directly, and those that are considered to have no direct effect.
Domestic policies that do have a direct effect on production and trade have to be cut back. WTO members calculated how much support of this kind they were providing per year for the agricultural sector (using calculations known as “total aggregate measurement of support” or “Total AMS”) in the base years of 1986-88. Developed countries agreed to reduce these figures by 20% over six years starting in 1995. Developing countries agreed to make 13% cuts over 10 years. Least-developed countries do not need to make any cuts. (This category of domestic support is sometimes called the “amber box”, a reference to the amber colour of traffic lights, which means “slow down”.)
Measures with minimal impact on trade can be used freely — they are in a “green box” (“green” as in traffic lights). They include government services such as research, disease control, infrastructure and food security. They also include payments made directly to farmers that do not stimulate production, such as certain forms of direct income support, assistance to help farmers restructure agriculture, and direct payments under environmental and regional assistance programmes.
Also permitted, are certain direct payments to farmers where the farmers are required to limit production (sometimes called “blue box” measures), certain government assistance programmes to encourage agricultural and rural development in developing countries, and other support on a small scale (“de minimis”) when compared with the total value of the product or products supported (5% or less in the case of developed countries and 10% or less for developing countries).

Export subsidies: limits on spending and quantities
The Agriculture Agreement prohibits export subsidies on agricultural products unless the subsidies are specified in a member’s lists of commitments. Where they are listed, the agreement requires WTO members to cut both the amount of money they spend on export subsidies and the quantities of exports that receive subsidies. Taking averages for 1986-90 as the base level, developed countries agreed to cut the value of export subsidies by 36% over the six years starting in 1995 (24% over 10 years for developing countries). Developed countries also agreed to reduce the quantities of subsidized exports by 21% over the six years (14% over 10 years for developing countries). Least-developed countries do not need to make any cuts.
During the six-year implementation period, developing countries are allowed under certain conditions to use subsidies to reduce the costs of marketing and transporting exports.

The least-developed and those depending on food imports
Under the Agriculture Agreement, WTO members have to reduce their subsidized exports. But some importing countries depend on supplies of cheap, subsidized food from the major industrialized nations. They include some of the poorest countries, and although their farming sectors might receive a boost from higher prices caused by reduced export subsidies, they might need temporary assistance to make the necessary adjustments to deal with higher priced imports, and eventually to export. A special ministerial decision sets out objectives, and certain measures, for the provision of food aid and aid for agricultural development. It also refers to the possibility of assistance from the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank to finance commercial food imports
Standards and safety
Article 20 of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) allows governments to act on trade in order to protect human, animal or plant life or health, provided they do not discriminate or use this as disguised protectionism. In addition, there are two specific WTO agreements dealing with food safety and animal and plant health and safety, and with product standards in general. Both try to identify how to meet the need to apply standards and at the same time avoid protectionism in disguise. These issues are becoming more important as tariff barriers fall — some compare this to seabed rocks appearing when the tide goes down. In both cases, if a country applies international standards, it is less likely to be challenged legally in the WTO than if it sets its own standards.
Food, animal and plant products: how safe is safe?
Problem: How do you ensure that your country’s consumers are being supplied with food that is safe to eat — “safe” by the standards you consider appropriate? And at the same time, how can you ensure that strict health and safety regulations are not being used as an excuse for protecting domestic producers?
A separate agreement on food safety and animal and plant health standards (the Sanitary and Phytosanitary Measures Agreement or SPS) sets out the basic rules.
It allows countries to set their own standards. But it also says regulations must be based on science. They should be applied only to the extent necessary to protect human, animal or plant life or health. And they should not arbitrarily or unjustifiably discriminate between countries where identical or similar conditions prevail.
Member countries are encouraged to use international standards, guidelines and recommendations where they exist. When they do, they are unlikely to be challenged legally in a WTO dispute. However, members may use measures which result in higher standards if there is scientific justification. They can also set higher standards based on appropriate assessment of risks so long as the approach is consistent, not arbitrary. And they can to some extent apply the “precautionary principle”, a kind of “safety first” approach to deal with scientific uncertainty. Article 5.7 of the SPS Agreement allows temporary “precautionary” measures.
The agreement still allows countries to use different standards and different methods of inspecting products. So how can an exporting country be sure the practices it applies to its products are acceptable in an importing country? If an exporting country can demonstrate that the measures it applies to its exports achieve the same level of health protection as in the importing country, then the importing country is expected to accept the exporting country’s standards and methods.
The agreement includes provisions on control, inspection and approval procedures. Governments must provide advance notice of new or changed sanitary and phytosanitary regulations, and establish a national enquiry point to provide information. The agreement complements that on technical barriers to trade.
> more on sanitary and phytosanitary measures

Technical regulations and standards
Technical regulations and standards are important, but they vary from country to country. Having too many different standards makes life difficult for producers and exporters. If the standards are set arbitrarily, they could be used as an excuse for protectionism. Standards can become obstacles to trade. But they are also necessary for a range of reasons, from environmental protection, safety, national security to consumer information. And they can help trade. Therefore the same basic question arises again: how to ensure that standards are genuinely useful, and not arbitrary or an excuse for protectionism.
The Technical Barriers to Trade Agreement (TBT) tries to ensure that regulations, standards, testing and certification procedures do not create unnecessary obstacles.
However, the agreement also recognizes countries’ rights to adopt the standards they consider appropriate — for example, for human, animal or plant life or health, for the protection of the environment or to meet other consumer interests. Moreover, members are not prevented from taking measures necessary to ensure their standards are met. But that is counterbalanced with disciplines. A myriad of regulations can be a nightmare for manufacturers and exporters. Life can be simpler if governments apply international standards, and the agreement encourages them to do so In any case, whatever regulations they use should not discriminate.
The agreement also sets out a code of good practice for both governments and non-governmental or industry bodies to prepare, adopt and apply voluntary standards. Over 200 standards-setting bodies apply the code.
The agreement says the procedures used to decide whether a product conforms with revelant standards have to be fair and equitable. It discourages any methods that would give domestically produced goods an unfair advantage. The agreement also encourages countries to recognize each other’s procedures for assessing whether a product conforms. Without recognition, products might have to be tested twice, first by the exporting country and then by the importing country.
Manufacturers and exporters need to know what the latest standards are in their prospective markets. To help ensure that this information is made available conveniently, all WTO member governments are required to establish national enquiry points and to keep each other informed through the WTO — around 900 new or changed regulations are notified each year. The Technical Barriers to Trade Committee is the major clearing house for members to share the information and the major forum to discuss concerns about the regulations and their implementation.
Textiles: back in the mainstream
Textiles, like agriculture, was one of the hardest-fought issues in the WTO, as it was in the former GATT system. It has now completed fundamental change under a 10-year schedule agreed in the Uruguay Round. The system of import quotas that dominated the trade since the early 1960s have now been phased out.
From 1974 until the end of the Uruguay Round, the trade was governed by the Multifibre Arrangement (MFA). This was a framework for bilateral agreements or unilateral actions that established quotas limiting imports into countries whose domestic industries were facing serious damage from rapidly increasing imports.
The quotas were the most visible feature. They conflicted with GATT’s general preference for customs tariffs instead of measures that restrict quantities. They were also exceptions to the GATT principle of treating all trading partners equally because they specified how much the importing country was going to accept from individual exporting countries.
Since 1995, the WTO’s Agreement on Textiles and Clothing (ATC) took over from the Mulltifibre Arrangement. By 1 January 2005, the sector was fully integrated into normal GATT rules. In particular, the quotas came to an end, and importing countries are no longer be able to discriminate between exporters. The Agreement on Textiles and Clothing no longer exists: it’s the only WTO agreement that had self-destruction built in.

Integration: returning products gradually to GATT rules back to top
Textiles and clothing products were returned to GATT rules over the 10-year period. This happened gradually, in four steps, to allow time for both importers and exporters to adjust to the new situation. Some of these products were previously under quotas. Any quotas that were in place on 31 December 1994 were carried over into the new agreement. For products that had quotas, the result of integration into GATT was the removal of these quotas.
The agreement stated the percentage of products that had to be brought under GATT rules at each step. If any of these products came under quotas, then the quotas had to be removed at the same time. The percentages were applied to the importing country’s textiles and clothing trade levels in 1990. The agreement also said the quantities of imports permitted under the quotas had to grow annually, and that the rate of expansion had to increase at each stage. How fast that expansion would be was set out in a formula based on the growth rate that existed under the old Multifibre Arrangement

Products brought under GATT rules at each of the first three stages had to cover the four main types of textiles and clothing: tops and yarns; fabrics; made-up textile products; and clothing. Any other restrictions that did not come under the Multifibre Arrangement and did not conform with regular WTO agreements by 1996 had to be made to conform or be phased out by 2005.

If further cases of damage to the industry arose during the transition, the agreement allowed additional restrictions to be imposed temporarily under strict conditions. These “transitional safeguards” were not the same as the safeguard measures normally allowed under GATT because they can be applied on imports from specific exporting countries. But the importing country had to show that its domestic industry was suffering serious damage or was threatened with serious damage. And it had to show that the damage was the result of two things: increased imports of the product in question from all sources, and a sharp and substantial increase from the specific exporting country. The safeguard restriction could be implemented either by mutual agreement following consultations, or unilaterally. It was subject to review by the Textiles Monitoring Body.
In any system where quotas are set for individual exporting countries, exporters might try to get around the quotas by shipping products through third countries or making false declarations about the products’ country of origin. The agreement included provisions to cope with these cases.
The agreement envisaged special treatment for certain categories of countries — for example, new market entrants, small suppliers, and least-developed countries.
A Textiles Monitoring Body (TMB) supervised the agreement’s implementation. It consisted of a chairman and 10 members acting in their personal capacity. It monitored actions taken under the agreement to ensure that they were consistent, and it reported to the Goods Council which reviewed the operation of the agreement before each new step of the integration process. The Textiles Monitoring Body also dealt with disputes under the Agreement on Textiles and Clothing. If they remained unresolved, the disputes could be brought to the WTO’s regular Dispute Settlement Body. When the Textiles and Clothing Agreement expired on 1 January 2005, the Textiles Monitoring Body also ceased to exist.
Services: rules for growth and investment
The General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS) is the first and only set of multilateral rules governing international trade in services. Negotiated in the Uruguay Round, it was developed in response to the huge growth of the services economy over the past 30 years and the greater potential for trading services brought about by the communications revolution
Services represent the fastest growing sector of the global economy and account for two thirds of global output, one third of global employment and nearly 20% of global trade.
When the idea of bringing rules on services into the multilateral trading system was floated in the early to mid 1980s, a number of countries were sceptical and even opposed. They believed such an agreement could undermine governments’ ability to pursue national policy objectives and constrain their regulatory powers. The agreement that was developed, however, allows a high degree of flexibility, both within the framework of rules and also in terms of the market access commitments.

GATS explained
The General Agreement on Trade in Services has three elements: the main text containing general obligations and disciplines; annexes dealing with rules for specific sectors; and individual countries’ specific commitments to provide access to their markets, including indications of where countries are temporarily not applying the “most-favoured-nation” principle of non-discrimination.

General obligations and disciplines
Total coverage The agreement covers all internationally-traded services — for example, banking, telecommunications, tourism, professional services, etc. It also defines four ways (or “modes”) of trading services:
services supplied from one country to another (e.g. international telephone calls), officially known as “cross-border supply” (in WTO jargon, “mode 1”)
consumers or firms making use of a service in another country (e.g. tourism), officially “consumption abroad” (“mode 2”)
a foreign company setting up subsidiaries or branches to provide services in another country (e.g. foreign banks setting up operations in a country), officially “commercial presence” (“mode 3”)
individuals travelling from their own country to supply services in another (e.g. fashion models or consultants), officially “presence of natural persons” (“mode 4”)
Most-favoured-nation (MFN) treatment Favour one, favour all. MFN means treating one’s trading partners equally on the principle of non-discrimination. Under GATS, if a country allows foreign competition in a sector, equal opportunities in that sector should be given to service providers from all other WTO members. (This applies even if the country has made no specific commitment to provide foreign companies access to its markets under the WTO.)
MFN applies to all services, but some special temporary exemptions have been allowed. When GATS came into force, a number of countries already had preferential agreements in services that they had signed with trading partners, either bilaterally or in small groups. WTO members felt it was necessary to maintain these preferences temporarily. They gave themselves the right to continue giving more favourable treatment to particular countries in particular services activities by listing “MFN exemptions” alongside their first sets of commitments. In order to protect the general MFN principle, the exemptions could only be made once; nothing can be added to the lists. They are currently being reviewed as mandated, and will normally last no more than ten years.
Commitments on market access and national treatment Individual countries’ commitments to open markets in specific sectors — and how open those markets will be — are the outcome of negotiations. The commitments appear in “schedules” that list the sectors being opened, the extent of market access being given in those sectors (e.g. whether there are any restrictions on foreign ownership), and any limitations on national treatment (whether some rights granted to local companies will not be granted to foreign companies). So, for example, if a government commits itself to allow foreign banks to operate in its domestic market, that is a market-access commitment. And if the government limits the number of licences it will issue, then that is a market-access limitation. If it also says foreign banks are only allowed one branch while domestic banks are allowed numerous branches, that is an exception to the national treatment principle.
These clearly defined commitments are “bound”: like bound tariffs for trade in goods, they can only be modified after negotiations with affected countries. Because “unbinding” is difficult, the commitments are virtually guaranteed conditions for foreign exporters and importers of services and investors in the sector to do business.
Governmental services are explicitly carved out of the agreement and there is nothing in GATS that forces a government to privatize service industries. In fact the word “privatize” does not even appear in GATS. Nor does it outlaw government or even private monopolies.
The carve-out is an explicit commitment by WTO governments to allow publicly funded services in core areas of their responsibility. Governmental services are defined in the agreement as those that are not supplied commercially and do not compete with other suppliers. These services are not subject to any GATS disciplines, they are not covered by the negotiations, and commitments on market access and national treatment (treating foreign and domestic companies equally) do not apply to them.
GATS’ approach to making commitments means that members are not obliged to do so on the whole universe of services sectors. A government may not want to make a commitment on the level of foreign competition in a given sector, because it considers the sector to be a core governmental function or indeed for any other reason. In this case, the government’s only obligations are minimal, for example to be transparent in regulating the sector, and not to discriminate between foreign suppliers.
Transparency GATS says governments must publish all relevant laws and regulations, and set up enquiry points within their bureaucracies. Foreign companies and governments can then use these inquiry points to obtain information about regulations in any service sector. And they have to notify the WTO of any changes in regulations that apply to the services that come under specific commitments.
Regulations: objective and reasonable Since domestic regulations are the most significant means of exercising influence or control over services trade, the agreement says governments should regulate services reasonably, objectively and impartially. When a government makes an administrative decision that affects a service, it should also provide an impartial means for reviewing the decision (for example a tribunal).
GATS does not require any service to be deregulated. Commitments to liberalize do not affect governments’ right to set levels of quality, safety, or price, or to introduce regulations to pursue any other policy objective they see fit. A commitment to national treatment, for example, would only mean that the same regulations would apply to foreign suppliers as to nationals. Governments naturally retain their right to set qualification requirements for doctors or lawyers, and to set standards to ensure consumer health and safety.
Recognition When two (or more) governments have agreements recognizing each other’s qualifications (for example, the licensing or certification of service suppliers), GATS says other members must also be given a chance to negotiate comparable pacts. The recognition of other countries’ qualifications must not be discriminatory, and it must not amount to protectionism in disguise. These recognition agreements have to be notified to the WTO.
International payments and transfers Once a government has made a commitment to open a service sector to foreign competition, it must not normally restrict money being transferred out of the country as payment for services supplied (“current transactions”) in that sector. The only exception is when there are balance-of-payments difficulties, and even then the restrictions must be temporary and subject to other limits and conditions.
Progressive liberalization The Uruguay Round was only the beginning. GATS requires more negotiations, which began in early 2000 and are now part of the Doha Development Agenda. The goal is to take the liberalization process further by increasing the level of commitments in schedules.
The annexes: services are not all the same
International trade in goods is a relatively simple idea to grasp: a product is transported from one country to another. Trade in services is much more diverse. Telephone companies, banks, airlines and accountancy firms provide their services in quite different ways. The GATS annexes reflect some of the diversity.
Movement of natural persons This annex deals with negotiations on individuals’ rights to stay temporarily in a country for the purpose of providing a service. It specifies that the agreement does not apply to people seeking permanent employment or to conditions for obtaining citizenship, permanent residence or permanent employment.
Financial services Instability in the banking system affects the whole economy. The financial services annex gives governments very wide latitude to take prudential measures, such as those for the protection of investors, depositors and insurance policy holders, and to ensure the integrity and stability of the financial system. The annex also excludes from the agreement services provided when a government is exercising its authority over the financial system, for example central banks’ services.
Telecommunications The telecommunications sector has a dual role: it is a distinct sector of economic activity; and it is an underlying means of supplying other economic activities (for example electronic money transfers). The annex says governments must ensure that foreign service suppliers are given access to the public telecommunications networks without discrimination.
Air transport services Under this annex, traffic rights and directly related activities are excluded from GATS’s coverage. They are handled by other bilateral agreements. However, the annex establishes that the GATS will apply to aircraft repair and maintenance services, marketing of air transport services and computer-reservation services. Members are currently reviewing the annex.

Current work
GATS sets a heavy work programme covering a wide range of subjects. Work on some of the subjects started in 1995, as required, soon after GATS came into force in January 1995. Negotiations to further liberalize international trade in services started in 2000, along with other work involving study and review.
Negotiations (Article 19) Negotiations to further liberalize international trade in services started in early 2000 as mandated by GATS (Article 19).
The first phase of the negotiations ended successfully in March 2001 when members agreed on the guidelines and procedures for the negotiations, a key element in the negotiating mandate. By agreeing these guidelines, members set the objectives, scope and method for the negotiations in a clear and balanced manner.
They also unequivocally endorsed some of GATS’ fundamental principles — i.e. members’ right to regulate and to introduce new regulations on the supply of services in pursuit of national policy objectives; their right to specify which services they wish to open to foreign suppliers and under which conditions; and the overarching principle of flexibility for developing and least-developed countries. The guidelines are therefore sensitive to public policy concerns in important sectors such as health-care, public education and cultural industries, while stressing the importance of liberalization in general, and ensuring foreign service providers have effective access to domestic markets.
The 2001 Doha Ministerial Declaration incorporated these negotiations into the “single undertaking” of the Doha Development Agenda. Since July 2002, a process of bilateral negotiations on market access has been underway.
Work on GATS rules (Articles 10, 13, and 15) Negotiations started in 1995 and are continuing on the development of possible disciplines that are not yet included in GATS: rules on emergency safeguard measures, government procurement and subsidies. Work so far has concentrated on safeguards. These are temporary limitations on market access to deal with market disruption, and the negotiations aim to set up procedures and disciplines for governments using these. Several deadlines have been missed. The current aim is for the results to come into effect at the same time as those of the current services negotiations.
Work on domestic regulations (Article 4.4) Work started in 1995 to establish disciplines on domestic regulations — i.e. the requirements foreign service suppliers have to meet in order to operate in a market. The focus is on qualification requirements and procedures, technical standards and licensing requirements. By December 1998, members had agreed disciplines on domestic regulations for the accountancy sector. Since then, members have been engaged in developing general disciplines for all professional services and, where necessary, additional sectoral disciplines. All the agreed disciplines will be integrated into GATS and become legally binding by the end of the current services negotiations.
MFN exemptions (Annex on Article 2) Work on this subject started in 2000. When GATS came into force in 1995, members were allowed a once-only opportunity to take an exemption from the MFN principle of non-discrimination between a member’s trading partners. The measure for which the exemption was taken is described in a member’s MFN exemption list, indicating to which member the more favourable treatment applies, and specifying its duration. In principle, these exemptions should not last for more than ten years. As mandated by GATS, all these exemptions are currently being reviewed to examine whether the conditions which created the need for these exemptions in the first place still exist. And in any case, they are part of the current services negotiations.
Taking account of “autonomous” liberalization (Article 19) Countries that have liberalized on their own initiative since the last multilateral negotiations want that to be taken into account when they negotiate market access in services. The negotiating guidelines and procedures that members agreed in March 2001 for the GATS negotiations also call for criteria for taking this “autonomous” or unilateral liberalization into account. These were agreed on 6 March 2003.
Special treatment for least-developed countries (Article 19) GATS mandates members to establish how to give special treatment to least-developed countries during the negotiations. (These “modalities” cover both the scope of the special treatment, and the methods to be used.) The least-developed countries began the discussions in March 2002. As a result of subsequent discussions, Members agreed the modalities on 3 September 2003.
Assessment of trade in services (Article 19) Preparatory work on this subject started in early 1999. GATS mandates that members assess trade in services, including the GATS objective of increasing the developing countries’ participation in services trade. The negotiating guidelines reiterate this, requiring the negotiations to be adjusted in response to the assessment. Members generally acknowledge that the shortage of statistical information and other methodological problems make it impossible to conduct an assessment based on full data. However, they are continuing their discussions with the assistance of several papers produced by the Secretariat.
Air transport services At present, most of the air transport sector — traffic rights and services directly related to traffic rights — is excluded from GATS’ coverage. However, GATS mandates a review by members of this situation. The purpose of the review, which started in early 2000, is to decide whether additional air transport services should be covered by GATS. The review could develop into a negotiation in its own right, resulting in an amendment of GATS itself by adding new services to its coverage and by adding specific commitments on these new services to national schedules.
Intellectual property: protection and enforcement
The WTO’s Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS), negotiated in the 1986-94 Uruguay Round, introduced intellectual property rules into the multilateral trading system for the first time.
Origins: into the rule-based trade system
Ideas and knowledge are an increasingly important part of trade. Most of the value of new medicines and other high technology products lies in the amount of invention, innovation, research, design and testing involved. Films, music recordings, books, computer software and on-line services are bought and sold because of the information and creativity they contain, not usually because of the plastic, metal or paper used to make them. Many products that used to be traded as low-technology goods or commodities now contain a higher proportion of invention and design in their value — for example brandnamed clothing or new varieties of plants.
Creators can be given the right to prevent others from using their inventions, designs or other creations — and to use that right to negotiate payment in return for others using them. These are “intellectual property rights”. They take a number of forms. For example books, paintings and films come under copyright; inventions can be patented; brandnames and product logos can be registered as trademarks; and so on. Governments and parliaments have given creators these rights as an incentive to produce ideas that will benefit society as a whole.
The extent of protection and enforcement of these rights varied widely around the world; and as intellectual property became more important in trade, these differences became a source of tension in international economic relations. New internationally-agreed trade rules for intellectual property rights were seen as a way to introduce more order and predictability, and for disputes to be settled more systematically.
The Uruguay Round achieved that. The WTO’s TRIPS Agreement is an attempt to narrow the gaps in the way these rights are protected around the world, and to bring them under common international rules. It establishes minimum levels of protection that each government has to give to the intellectual property of fellow WTO members. In doing so, it strikes a balance between the long term benefits and possible short term costs to society. Society benefits in the long term when intellectual property protection encourages creation and invention, especially when the period of protection expires and the creations and inventions enter the public domain. Governments are allowed to reduce any short term costs through various exceptions, for example to tackle public health problems. And, when there are trade disputes over intellectual property rights, the WTO’s dispute settlement system is now available.
The agreement covers five broad issues:
how basic principles of the trading system and other international intellectual property agreements should be applied
how to give adequate protection to intellectual property rights
how countries should enforce those rights adequately in their own territories
how to settle disputes on intellectual property between members of the WTO
special transitional arrangements during the period when the new system is being introduced.

Basic principles: national treatment, MFN, and balanced protection
As in GATT and GATS, the starting point of the intellectual property agreement is basic principles. And as in the two other agreements, non-discrimination features prominently: national treatment (treating one’s own nationals and foreigners equally), and most-favoured-nation treatment (equal treatment for nationals of all trading partners in the WTO). National treatment is also a key principle in other intellectual property agreements outside the WTO.
The TRIPS Agreement has an additional important principle: intellectual property protection should contribute to technical innovation and the transfer of technology. Both producers and users should benefit, and economic and social welfare should be enhanced, the agreement says.

How to protect intellectual property: common ground-rules
The second part of the TRIPS agreement looks at different kinds of intellectual property rights and how to protect them. The purpose is to ensure that adequate standards of protection exist in all member countries. Here the starting point is the obligations of the main international agreements of the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) that already existed before the WTO was created:
the Paris Convention for the Protection of Industrial Property (patents, industrial designs, etc)
the Berne Convention for the Protection of Literary and Artistic Works (copyright).
Some areas are not covered by these conventions. In some cases, the standards of protection prescribed were thought inadequate. So the TRIPS agreement adds a significant number of new or higher standards.

Copyright
The TRIPS agreement ensures that computer programs will be protected as literary works under the Berne Convention and outlines how databases should be protected.
It also expands international copyright rules to cover rental rights. Authors of computer programs and producers of sound recordings must have the right to prohibit the commercial rental of their works to the public. A similar exclusive right applies to films where commercial rental has led to widespread copying, affecting copyright-owners’ potential earnings from their films.
The agreement says performers must also have the right to prevent unauthorized recording, reproduction and broadcast of live performances (bootlegging) for no less than 50 years. Producers of sound recordings must have the right to prevent the unauthorized reproduction of recordings for a period of 50 years.

Trademarks
The agreement defines what types of signs must be eligible for protection as trademarks, and what the minimum rights conferred on their owners must be. It says that service marks must be protected in the same way as trademarks used for goods. Marks that have become well-known in a particular country enjoy additional protection.

Geographical indications
A place name is sometimes used to identify a product. This “geographical indication” does not only say where the product was made. More importantly, it identifies the product’s special characteristics, which are the result of the product’s origins.
Well-known examples include “Champagne”, “Scotch”, “Tequila”, and “Roquefort” cheese. Wine and spirits makers are particularly concerned about the use of place-names to identify products, and the TRIPS Agreement contains special provisions for these products. But the issue is also important for other types of goods.
Using the place name when the product was made elsewhere or when it does not have the usual characteristics can mislead consumers, and it can lead to unfair competition. The TRIPS Agreement says countries have to prevent this misuse of place names.
For wines and spirits, the agreement provides higher levels of protection, i.e. even where there is no danger of the public being misled.
Some exceptions are allowed, for example if the name is already protected as a trademark or if it has become a generic term. For example, “cheddar” now refers to a particular type of cheese not necessarily made in Cheddar, in the UK. But any country wanting to make an exception for these reasons must be willing to negotiate with the country which wants to protect the geographical indication in question.
The agreement provides for further negotiations in the WTO to establish a multilateral system of notification and registration of geographical indications for wines. These are now part of the Doha Development Agenda and they include spirits. Also debated in the WTO is whether to negotiate extending this higher level of protection beyond wines and spirits.

Industrial designs
Under the TRIPS Agreement, industrial designs must be protected for at least 10 years. Owners of protected designs must be able to prevent the manufacture, sale or importation of articles bearing or embodying a design which is a copy of the protected design.
Patents
The agreement says patent protection must be available for inventions for at least 20 years. Patent protection must be available for both products and processes, in almost all fields of technology. Governments can refuse to issue a patent for an invention if its commercial exploitation is prohibited for reasons of public order or morality. They can also exclude diagnostic, therapeutic and surgical methods, plants and animals (other than microorganisms), and biological processes for the production of plants or animals (other than microbiological processes).
Plant varieties, however, must be protectable by patents or by a special system (such as the breeder’s rights provided in the conventions of UPOV — the International Union for the Protection of New Varieties of Plants).
The agreement describes the minimum rights that a patent owner must enjoy. But it also allows certain exceptions. A patent owner could abuse his rights, for example by failing to supply the product on the market. To deal with that possibility, the agreement says governments can issue “compulsory licences”, allowing a competitor to produce the product or use the process under licence. But this can only be done under certain conditions aimed at safeguarding the legitimate interests of the patent-holder.
If a patent is issued for a production process, then the rights must extend to the product directly obtained from the process. Under certain conditions alleged infringers may be ordered by a court to prove that they have not used the patented process.
An issue that has arisen recently is how to ensure patent protection for pharmaceutical products does not prevent people in poor countries from having access to medicines — while at the same time maintaining the patent system’s role in providing incentives for research and development into new medicines. Flexibilities such as compulsory licensing are written into the TRIPS Agreement, but some governments were unsure of how these would be interpreted, and how far their right to use them would be respected.
A large part of this was settled when WTO ministers issued a special declaration at the Doha Ministerial Conference in November 2001. They agreed that the TRIPS Agreement does not and should not prevent members from taking measures to protect public health. They underscored countries’ ability to use the flexibilities that are built into the TRIPS Agreement. And they agreed to extend exemptions on pharmaceutical patent protection for least-developed countries until 2016. On one remaining question, they assigned further work to the TRIPS Council — to sort out how to provide extra flexibility, so that countries unable to produce pharmaceuticals domestically can import patented drugs made under compulsory licensing. A waiver providing this flexibility was agreed on 30 August 2003.

Integrated circuits layout designs
The basis for protecting integrated circuit designs (“topographies”) in the TRIPS agreement is the Washington Treaty on Intellectual Property in Respect of Integrated Circuits, which comes under the World Intellectual Property Organization. This was adopted in 1989 but has not yet entered into force. The TRIPS agreement adds a number of provisions: for example, protection must be available for at least 10 years.

Undisclosed information and trade secrets
Trade secrets and other types of “undisclosed information” which have commercial value must be protected against breach of confidence and other acts contrary to honest commercial practices. But reasonable steps must have been taken to keep the information secret. Test data submitted to governments in order to obtain marketing approval for new pharmaceutical or agricultural chemicals must also be protected against unfair commercial use.

Curbing anti-competitive licensing contracts
The owner of a copyright, patent or other form of intellectual property right can issue a licence for someone else to produce or copy the protected trademark, work, invention, design, etc. The agreement recognizes that the terms of a licensing contract could restrict competition or impede technology transfer. It says that under certain conditions, governments have the right to take action to prevent anti-competitive licensing that abuses intellectual property rights. It also says governments must be prepared to consult each other on controlling anti-competitive licensing.

Enforcement: tough but fair
Having intellectual property laws is not enough. They have to be enforced. This is covered in Part 3 of TRIPS. The agreement says governments have to ensure that intellectual property rights can be enforced under their laws, and that the penalties for infringement are tough enough to deter further violations. The procedures must be fair and equitable, and not unnecessarily complicated or costly. They should not entail unreasonable time-limits or unwarranted delays. People involved should be able to ask a court to review an administrative decision or to appeal a lower court’s ruling.
The agreement describes in some detail how enforcement should be handled, including rules for obtaining evidence, provisional measures, injunctions, damages and other penalties. It says courts should have the right, under certain conditions, to order the disposal or destruction of pirated or counterfeit goods. Wilful trademark counterfeiting or copyright piracy on a commercial scale should be criminal offences. Governments should make sure that intellectual property rights owners can receive the assistance of customs authorities to prevent imports of counterfeit and pirated goods.

Technology transfer
Developing countries in particular, see technology transfer as part of the bargain in which they have agreed to protect intellectual property rights. The TRIPS Agreement includes a number of provisions on this. For example, it requires developed countries’ governments to provide incentives for their companies to transfer technology to least-developed countries.

Transition arrangements: 1, 5 or 11 years or more
When the WTO agreements took effect on 1 January 1995, developed countries were given one year to ensure that their laws and practices conform with the TRIPS agreement. Developing countries and (under certain conditions) transition economies were given five years, until 2000. Least-developed countries have 11 years, until 2006 — now extended to 2016 for pharmaceutical patents.
If a developing country did not provide product patent protection in a particular area of technology when the TRIPS Agreement came into force (1 January 1995), it had up to 10 years to introduce the protection. But for pharmaceutical and agricultural chemical products, the country had to accept the filing of patent applications from the beginning of the transitional period, though the patent did not need to be granted until the end of this period. If the government allowed the relevant pharmaceutical or agricultural chemical to be marketed during the transition period, it had to — subject to certain conditions — provide an exclusive marketing right for the product for five years, or until a product patent was granted, whichever was shorter.
Subject to certain exceptions, the general rule is that obligations in the agreement apply to intellectual property rights that existed at the end of a country’s transition period as well as to new ones.
Anti-dumping, subsidies, safeguards: contingencies, etc
Binding tariffs, and applying them equally to all trading partners (most-favoured-nation treatment, or MFN) are key to the smooth flow of trade in goods. The WTO agreements uphold the principles, but they also allow exceptions — in some circumstances. Three of these issues are:
actions taken against dumping (selling at an unfairly low price)
subsidies and special “countervailing” duties to offset the subsidies
emergency measures to limit imports temporarily, designed to “safeguard” domestic industries.
Anti-dumping actions
If a company exports a product at a price lower than the price it normally charges on its own home market, it is said to be “dumping” the product. Is this unfair competition? Opinions differ, but many governments take action against dumping in order to defend their domestic industries. The WTO agreement does not pass judgement. Its focus is on how governments can or cannot react to dumping — it disciplines anti-dumping actions, and it is often called the “Anti-Dumping Agreement”. (This focus only on the reaction to dumping contrasts with the approach of the Subsidies and Countervailing Measures Agreement.)
The legal definitions are more precise, but broadly speaking the WTO agreement allows governments to act against dumping where there is genuine (“material”) injury to the competing domestic industry. In order to do that the government has to be able to show that dumping is taking place, calculate the extent of dumping (how much lower the export price is compared to the exporter’s home market price), and show that the dumping is causing injury or threatening to do so.
GATT (Article 6) allows countries to take action against dumping. The Anti-Dumping Agreement clarifies and expands Article 6, and the two operate together. They allow countries to act in a way that would normally break the GATT principles of binding a tariff and not discriminating between trading partners — typically anti-dumping action means charging extra import duty on the particular product from the particular exporting country in order to bring its price closer to the “normal value” or to remove the injury to domestic industry in the importing country.
There are many different ways of calculating whether a particular product is being dumped heavily or only lightly. The agreement narrows down the range of possible options. It provides three methods to calculate a product’s “normal value”. The main one is based on the price in the exporter’s domestic market. When this cannot be used, two alternatives are available — the price charged by the exporter in another country, or a calculation based on the combination of the exporter’s production costs, other expenses and normal profit margins. And the agreement also specifies how a fair comparison can be made between the export price and what would be a normal price.
Calculating the extent of dumping on a product is not enough. Anti-dumping measures can only be applied if the dumping is hurting the industry in the importing country. Therefore, a detailed investigation has to be conducted according to specified rules first. The investigation must evaluate all relevant economic factors that have a bearing on the state of the industry in question. If the investigation shows dumping is taking place and domestic industry is being hurt, the exporting company can undertake to raise its price to an agreed level in order to avoid anti-dumping import duty.
Detailed procedures are set out on how anti-dumping cases are to be initiated, how the investigations are to be conducted, and the conditions for ensuring that all interested parties are given an opportunity to present evidence. Anti-dumping measures must expire five years after the date of imposition, unless an investigation shows that ending the measure would lead to injury.
Anti-dumping investigations are to end immediately in cases where the authorities determine that the margin of dumping is insignificantly small (defined as less than 2% of the export price of the product). Other conditions are also set. For example, the investigations also have to end if the volume of dumped imports is negligible (i.e. if the volume from one country is less than 3% of total imports of that product — although investigations can proceed if several countries, each supplying less than 3% of the imports, together account for 7% or more of total imports).
The agreement says member countries must inform the Committee on Anti-Dumping Practices about all preliminary and final anti-dumping actions, promptly and in detail. They must also report on all investigations twice a year. When differences arise, members are encouraged to consult each other. They can also use the WTO’s dispute settlement procedure.
Subsidies and countervailing measures
This agreement does two things: it disciplines the use of subsidies, and it regulates the actions countries can take to counter the effects of subsidies. It says a country can use the WTO’s dispute settlement procedure to seek the withdrawal of the subsidy or the removal of its adverse effects. Or the country can launch its own investigation and ultimately charge extra duty (known as “countervailing duty”) on subsidized imports that are found to be hurting domestic producers.
The agreement contains a definition of subsidy. It also introduces the concept of a “specific” subsidy — i.e. a subsidy available only to an enterprise, industry, group of enterprises, or group of industries in the country (or state, etc) that gives the subsidy. The disciplines set out in the agreement only apply to specific subsidies. They can be domestic or export subsidies.
The agreement defines two categories of subsidies: prohibited and actionable. It originally contained a third category: non-actionable subsidies. This category existed for five years, ending on 31 December 1999, and was not extended. The agreement applies to agricultural goods as well as industrial products, except when the subsidies are exempt under the Agriculture Agreement’s “peace clause”, due to expire at the end of 2003.
Prohibited subsidies: subsidies that require recipients to meet certain export targets, or to use domestic goods instead of imported goods. They are prohibited because they are specifically designed to distort international trade, and are therefore likely to hurt other countries’ trade. They can be challenged in the WTO dispute settlement procedure where they are handled under an accelerated timetable. If the dispute settlement procedure confirms that the subsidy is prohibited, it must be withdrawn immediately. Otherwise, the complaining country can take counter measures. If domestic producers are hurt by imports of subsidized products, countervailing duty can be imposed.
Actionable subsidies: in this category the complaining country has to show that the subsidy has an adverse effect on its interests. Otherwise the subsidy is permitted. The agreement defines three types of damage they can cause. One country’s subsidies can hurt a domestic industry in an importing country. They can hurt rival exporters from another country when the two compete in third markets. And domestic subsidies in one country can hurt exporters trying to compete in the subsidizing country’s domestic market. If the Dispute Settlement Body rules that the subsidy does have an adverse effect, the subsidy must be withdrawn or its adverse effect must be removed. Again, if domestic producers are hurt by imports of subsidized products, countervailing duty can be imposed.
Some of the disciplines are similar to those of the Anti-Dumping Agreement. Countervailing duty (the parallel of anti-dumping duty) can only be charged after the importing country has conducted a detailed investigation similar to that required for anti-dumping action. There are detailed rules for deciding whether a product is being subsidized (not always an easy calculation), criteria for determining whether imports of subsidized products are hurting (“causing injury to”) domestic industry, procedures for initiating and conducting investigations, and rules on the implementation and duration (normally five years) of countervailing measures. The subsidized exporter can also agree to raise its export prices as an alternative to its exports being charged countervailing duty.
Subsidies may play an important role in developing countries and in the transformation of centrally-planned economies to market economies. Least-developed countries and developing countries with less than $1,000 per capita GNP are exempted from disciplines on prohibited export subsidies. Other developing countries are given until 2003 to get rid of their export subsidies. Least-developed countries must eliminate import-substitution subsidies (i.e. subsidies designed to help domestic production and avoid importing) by 2003 — for other developing countries the deadline was 2000. Developing countries also receive preferential treatment if their exports are subject to countervailing duty investigations. For transition economies, prohibited subsidies had to be phased out by 2002.
Safeguards: emergency protection from imports
A WTO member may restrict imports of a product temporarily (take “safeguard” actions) if its domestic industry is injured or threatened with injury caused by a surge in imports. Here, the injury has to be serious. Safeguard measures were always available under GATT (Article 19). However, they were infrequently used, some governments preferring to protect their domestic industries through “grey area” measures — using bilateral negotiations outside GATT’s auspices, they persuaded exporting countries to restrain exports “voluntarily” or to agree to other means of sharing markets. Agreements of this kind were reached for a wide range of products: automobiles, steel, and semiconductors, for example.
The WTO agreement broke new ground. It prohibits “grey-area” measures, and it sets time limits (a “sunset clause”) on all safeguard actions. The agreement says members must not seek, take or maintain any voluntary export restraints, orderly marketing arrangements or any other similar measures on the export or the import side. The bilateral measures that were not modified to conform with the agreement were phased out at the end of 1998. Countries were allowed to keep one of these measures an extra year (until the end of 1999), but only the European Union — for restrictions on imports of cars from Japan — made use of this provision.
An import “surge” justifying safeguard action can be a real increase in imports (an absolute increase); or it can be an increase in the imports’ share of a shrinking market, even if the import quantity has not increased (relative increase).
Industries or companies may request safeguard action by their government. The WTO agreement sets out requirements for safeguard investigations by national authorities. The emphasis is on transparency and on following established rules and practices — avoiding arbitrary methods. The authorities conducting investigations have to announce publicly when hearings are to take place and provide other appropriate means for interested parties to present evidence. The evidence must include arguments on whether a measure is in the public interest.
The agreement sets out criteria for assessing whether “serious injury” is being caused or threatened, and the factors which must be considered in determining the impact of imports on the domestic industry. When imposed, a safeguard measure should be applied only to the extent necessary to prevent or remedy serious injury and to help the industry concerned to adjust. Where quantitative restrictions (quotas) are imposed, they normally should not reduce the quantities of imports below the annual average for the last three representative years for which statistics are available, unless clear justification is given that a different level is necessary to prevent or remedy serious injury.
In principle, safeguard measures cannot be targeted at imports from a particular country. However, the agreement does describe how quotas can be allocated among supplying countries, including in the exceptional circumstance where imports from certain countries have increased disproportionately quickly. A safeguard measure should not last more than four years, although this can be extended up to eight years, subject to a determination by competent national authorities that the measure is needed and that there is evidence the industry is adjusting. Measures imposed for more than a year must be progressively liberalized.
When a country restricts imports in order to safeguard its domestic producers, in principle it must give something in return. The agreement says the exporting country (or exporting countries) can seek compensation through consultations. If no agreement is reached the exporting country can retaliate by taking equivalent action — for instance, it can raise tariffs on exports from the country that is enforcing the safeguard measure. In some circumstances, the exporting country has to wait for three years after the safeguard measure was introduced before it can retaliate in this way — i.e. if the measure conforms with the provisions of the agreement and if it is taken as a result of an increase in the quantity of imports from the exporting country.
To some extent developing countries’ exports are shielded from safeguard actions. An importing country can only apply a safeguard measure to a product from a developing country if the developing country is supplying more than 3% of the imports of that product, or if developing country members with less than 3% import share collectively account for more than 9% of total imports of the product concerned.
The WTO’s Safeguards Committee oversees the operation of the agreement and is responsible for the surveillance of members’ commitments. Governments have to report each phase of a safeguard investigation and related decision-making, and the committee reviews these reports.
DEVELOPING COUNTRIES

About two thirds of the WTO’s around 150 members are developing countries. They play an increasingly important and active role in the WTO because of their numbers, because they are becoming more important in the global economy, and because they increasingly look to trade as a vital tool in their development efforts. Developing countries are a highly diverse group often with very different views and concerns. The WTO deals with the special needs of developing countries in three ways: the WTO agreements contain special provisions on developing countries
the Committee on Trade and Development is the main body focusing on work in this area in the WTO, with some others dealing with specific topics such as trade and debt, and technology transfer
the WTO Secretariat provides technical assistance (mainly training of various kinds) for developing countries.

In the agreements:
The WTO agreements include numerous provisions giving developing and least-developed countries special rights or extra leniency — “special and differential treatment”. Among these are provisions that allow developed countries to treat developing countries more favourably than other WTO members.
The General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT, which deals with trade in goods) has a special section (Part 4) on Trade and Development which includes provisions on the concept of non-reciprocity in trade negotiations between developed and developing countries — when developed countries grant trade concessions to developing countries they should not expect the developing countries to make matching offers in return.
Both GATT and the General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS) allow developing countries some preferential treatment.
Other measures concerning developing countries in the WTO agreements include:
extra time for developing countries to fulfil their commitments (in many of the WTO agreements)
provisions designed to increase developing countries’ trading opportunities through greater market access (e.g. in textiles, services, technical barriers to trade)
provisions requiring WTO members to safeguard the interests of developing countries when adopting some domestic or international measures (e.g. in anti-dumping, safeguards, technical barriers to trade)
provisions for various means of helping developing countries (e.g. to deal with commitments on animal and plant health standards, technical standards, and in strengthening their domestic telecommunications sectors).

Legal assistance: a Secretariat service
The WTO Secretariat has special legal advisers for assisting developing countries in any WTO dispute and for giving them legal counsel. The service is offered by the WTO’s Training and Technical Cooperation Institute. Developing countries regularly make use of it.
Furthermore, in 2001, 32 WTO governments set up an Advisory Centre on WTO law. Its members consist of countries contributing to the funding, and those receiving legal advice. All least-developed countries are automatically eligible for advice. Other developing countries and transition economies have to be fee-paying members in order to receive advice.

Least-developed countries: special focus
The least-developed countries receive extra attention in the WTO. All the WTO agreements recognize that they must benefit from the greatest possible flexibility, and better-off members must make extra efforts to lower import barriers on least-developed countries’ exports.
Since the Uruguay Round agreements were signed in 1994, several decisions in favour of least-developed countries have been taken.
Meeting in Singapore in 1996, WTO ministers agreed on a “Plan of Action for Least-Developed Countries”. This included technical assistance to enable them to participate better in the multilateral system and a pledge from developed countries to improved market access for least-developed countries’ products.
A year later, in October 1997, six international organizations — the International Monetary Fund, the International Trade Centre, the United Nations Conference for Trade and Development, the United Nations Development Programme, the World Bank and the WTO — launched the “Integrated Framework”, a joint technical assistance programme exclusively for least-developed countries.
In 2002, the WTO adopted a work programme for least-developed countries. It contains several broad elements: improved market access; more technical assistance; support for agencies working on the diversification of least-developed countries’ economies; help in following the work of the WTO; and a speedier membership process for least-developed countries negotiating to join the WTO.
At the same time, more and more member governments have unilaterally scrapped import duties and import quotas on all exports from least-developed countries.

Geneva:
The WTO’s official business takes place mainly in Geneva. So do the unofficial contacts that can be equally important. But having a permanent office of representatives in Geneva can be expensive. Only about one third of the 30 or so least-developed countries in the WTO have permanent offices in Geneva, and they cover all United Nations activities as well as the WTO.
As a result of the negotiations to locate the WTO headquarters in Geneva, the Swiss government has agreed to provide subsidized office space for delegations from least-developed countries.
A number of WTO members also provide financial support for ministers and accompanying officials from least-developed countries to help them attend WTO ministerial conferences.

Members and Observers
151 members on 27 July 2007 (with dates of membership).
Click any member to see key information on trade statistics, WTO commitments, disputes, trade policy reviews, and notifications
Albania 8 September 2000
Angola 23 November 1996
Antigua and Barbuda 1 January 1995
Argentina 1 January 1995
Armenia 5 February 2003
Australia 1 January 1995
Austria 1 January 1995
Bahrain, Kingdom of 1 January 1995
Bangladesh 1 January 1995
Barbados 1 January 1995
Belgium 1 January 1995
Belize 1 January 1995
Benin 22 February 1996
Bolivia 12 September 1995
Botswana 31 May 1995
Brazil 1 January 1995
Brunei Darussalam 1 January 1995
Bulgaria 1 December 1996
Burkina Faso 3 June 1995
Burundi 23 July 1995
Cambodia 13 October 2004
Cameroon 13 December 1995
Canada 1 January 1995
Central African Republic 31 May 1995
Chad 19 October 1996
Chile 1 January 1995
China 11 December 2001
Colombia 30 April 1995
Congo 27 March 1997
Costa Rica 1 January 1995
Côte d'Ivoire 1 January 1995
Croatia 30 November 2000
Cuba 20 April 1995
Cyprus 30 July 1995
Czech Republic 1 January 1995
Democratic Republic of the Congo 1 January 1997
Denmark 1 January 1995
Djibouti 31 May 1995
Dominica 1 January 1995
Dominican Republic 9 March 1995
Ecuador 21 January 1996
Egypt 30 June 1995
El Salvador 7 May 1995
Estonia 13 November 1999
European Communities 1 January 1995
Fiji 14 January 1996
Finland 1 January 1995
Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) 4 April 2003
France 1 January 1995
Gabon 1 January 1995
The Gambia 23 October 1996
Georgia 14 June 2000
Germany 1 January 1995
Ghana 1 January 1995
Greece 1 January 1995
Grenada 22 February 1996
Guatemala 21 July 1995
Guinea 25 October 1995
Guinea Bissau 31 May 1995
Guyana 1 January 1995
Haiti 30 January 1996
Honduras 1 January 1995
Hong Kong, China 1 January 1995
Hungary 1 January 1995
Iceland 1 January 1995
India 1 January 1995
Indonesia 1 January 1995
Ireland 1 January 1995
Israel 21 April 1995
Italy 1 January 1995
Jamaica 9 March 1995
Japan 1 January 1995
Jordan 11 April 2000
Kenya 1 January 1995
Korea, Republic of 1 January 1995
Kuwait 1 January 1995
Kyrgyz Republic 20 December 1998
Latvia 10 February 1999
Lesotho 31 May 1995
Liechtenstein 1 September 1995
Lithuania 31 May 2001
Luxembourg 1 January 1995
Macao, China 1 January 1995
Madagascar 17 November 1995
Malawi 31 May 1995
Malaysia 1 January 1995
Maldives 31 May 1995
Mali 31 May 1995
Malta 1 January 1995
Mauritania 31 May 1995
Mauritius 1 January 1995
Mexico 1 January 1995
Moldova 26 July 2001
Mongolia 29 January 1997
Morocco 1 January 1995
Mozambique 26 August 1995
Myanmar 1 January 1995
Namibia 1 January 1995
Nepal 23 April 2004
Netherlands — For the Kingdom in Europe and for the Netherlands Antilles 1 January 1995
New Zealand 1 January 1995
Nicaragua 3 September 1995
Niger 13 December 1996
Nigeria 1 January 1995
Norway 1 January 1995
Oman 9 November 2000
Pakistan 1 January 1995
Panama 6 September 1997
Papua New Guinea 9 June 1996
Paraguay 1 January 1995
Peru 1 January 1995
Philippines 1 January 1995
Poland 1 July 1995
Portugal 1 January 1995
Qatar 13 January 1996
Romania 1 January 1995
Rwanda 22 May 1996
Saint Kitts and Nevis 21 February 1996
Saint Lucia 1 January 1995
Saint Vincent & the Grenadines 1 January 1995
Saudi Arabia 11 December 2005
Senegal 1 January 1995
Sierra Leone 23 July 1995
Singapore 1 January 1995
Slovak Republic 1 January 1995
Slovenia 30 July 1995
Solomon Islands 26 July 1996
South Africa 1 January 1995
Spain 1 January 1995
Sri Lanka 1 January 1995
Suriname 1 January 1995
Swaziland 1 January 1995
Sweden 1 January 1995
Switzerland 1 July 1995
Chinese Taipei 1 January 2002
Tanzania 1 January 1995
Thailand 1 January 1995
Togo 31 May 1995
Tonga 27 July 2007
Trinidad and Tobago 1 March 1995
Tunisia 29 March 1995
Turkey 26 March 1995
Uganda 1 January 1995
United Arab Emirates 10 April 1996
United Kingdom 1 January 1995
United States of America 1 January 1995
Uruguay 1 January 1995
Venezuela (Bolivarian Republic of) 1 January 1995
Viet Nam 11 January 2007
Zambia 1 January 1995
Zimbabwe 5 March 1995

Observer governments
Afghanistan
Algeria
Andorra
Azerbaijan
Bahamas
Belarus
Bhutan
Bosnia and Herzegovina
Cape Verde
Comoros
Equatorial Guinea
Ethiopia
Holy See (Vatican)
Iran
Iraq
Kazakhstan
Lao People's Democratic Republic
Lebanese Republic
Libya
Montenegro
Russian Federation
Samoa
Sao Tomé and Principe
Serbia
Seychelles
Sudan
Tajikistan
Ukraine
Uzbekistan
Vanuatu
Yemen
Meetings of Ministers
Meetings of Ministers are held at least once every two years. At these meetings, decisions are taken that are legally binding on countries, and negotiations take place on a variety of different issues.
The Sixth WTO Ministerial Conference was held in Hong Kong, China, 13–18 December 2005.the 5th round of WTO trade talks will take place in Cancun, Mexico from 10-14 September 2003. The first four such meetings were held in Singapore (1996), Geneva (1998), Seattle (1999), and Doha (2001).
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Re: WTO - November 22nd, 2017

Quote:
Originally Posted by yummy1984 View Post
WTO
Essentially, the WTO is a place where member governments go, to try to sort out the trade problems they face with each other.
At its heart are the WTO agreements, negotiated and signed by the bulk of the world’s trading nations.
But the WTO is not just about liberalizing trade, and in some circumstances its rules support maintaining trade barriers — for example to protect consumers, prevent the spread of disease or protect the environment.
There are a number of ways of looking at the WTO. It’s an organization for liberalizing trade. It’s a forum for governments to negotiate trade agreements. It’s a place for them to settle trade disputes. It operates a system of trade rules. (But it’s not Superman, just in case anyone thought it could solve — or cause — all the world’s problems!) Above all, it’s a negotiating forum … Essentially, the WTO is a place where member governments go, to try to sort out the trade problems they face with each other. The first step is to talk. The WTO was born out of negotiations, and everything the WTO does is the result of negotiations. The bulk of the WTO's current work comes from the 1986-94 negotiations called the Uruguay Round and earlier negotiations under the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT). The WTO is currently the host to new negotiations, under the “Doha Development Agenda” launched in 2001.
Where countries have faced trade barriers and wanted them lowered, the negotiations have helped to liberalize trade. But the WTO is not just about liberalizing trade, and in some circumstances its rules support maintaining trade barriers — for example to protect consumers or prevent the spread of disease.
It’s a set of rules … At its heart are the WTO agreements, negotiated and signed by the bulk of the world’s trading nations. These documents provide the legal ground-rules for international commerce. They are essentially contracts, binding governments to keep their trade policies within agreed limits. Although negotiated and signed by governments, the goal is to help producers of goods and services, exporters, and importers conduct their business, while allowing governments to meet social and environmental objectives.
The system’s overriding purpose is to help trade flow as freely as possible — so long as there are no undesirable side-effects — because this is important for economic development and well-being. That partly means removing obstacles. It also means ensuring that individuals, companies and governments know what the trade rules are around the world, and giving them the confidence that there will be no sudden changes of policy. In other words, the rules have to be “transparent” and predictable.
And it helps to settle disputes … This is a third important side to the WTO’s work. Trade relations often involve conflicting interests. Agreements, including those painstakingly negotiated in the WTO system, often need interpreting. The most harmonious way to settle these differences is through some neutral procedure based on an agreed legal foundation. That is the purpose behind the dispute settlement process written into the WTO agreements.
The WTO began life on 1 January 1995, but its trading system is half a century older. Since 1948, the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) had provided the rules for the system. (The second WTO ministerial meeting, held in Geneva in May 1998, included a celebration of the 50th anniversary of the system.)
It did not take long for the General Agreement to give birth to an unofficial, de facto international organization, also known informally as GATT. Over the years GATT evolved through several rounds of negotiations.
The last and largest GATT round, was the Uruguay Round which lasted from 1986 to 1994 and led to the WTO’s creation. Whereas GATT had mainly dealt with trade in goods, the WTO and its agreements now cover trade in services, and in traded inventions, creations and designs (intellectual property).
Principles of the trading system
The WTO agreements are lengthy and complex because they are legal texts covering a wide range of activities. They deal with: agriculture, textiles and clothing, banking, telecommunications, government purchases, industrial standards and product safety, food sanitation regulations, intellectual property, and much more. But a number of simple, fundamental principles run throughout all of these documents. These principles are the foundation of the multilateral trading system.
Trade without discrimination
1. Most-favoured-nation (MFN): treating other people equally Under the WTO agreements, countries cannot normally discriminate between their trading partners. Grant someone a special favour (such as a lower customs duty rate for one of their products) and you have to do the same for all other WTO members.
This principle is known as most-favoured-nation (MFN) treatment (see box). It is so important that it is the first article of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT), which governs trade in goods. MFN is also a priority in the General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS) (Article 2) and the Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) (Article 4), although in each agreement the principle is handled slightly differently. Together, those three agreements cover all three main areas of trade handled by the WTO.
Some exceptions are allowed. For example, countries can set up a free trade agreement that applies only to goods traded within the group — discriminating against goods from outside. Or they can give developing countries special access to their markets. Or a country can raise barriers against products that are considered to be traded unfairly from specific countries. And in services, countries are allowed, in limited circumstances, to discriminate. But the agreements only permit these exceptions under strict conditions. In general, MFN means that every time a country lowers a trade barrier or opens up a market, it has to do so for the same goods or services from all its trading partners — whether rich or poor, weak or strong
2. National treatment: Treating foreigners and locals equally Imported and locally-produced goods should be treated equally — at least after the foreign goods have entered the market. The same should apply to foreign and domestic services, and to foreign and local trademarks, copyrights and patents. This principle of “national treatment” (giving others the same treatment as one’s own nationals) is also found in all the three main WTO agreements (Article 3 of GATT, Article 17 of GATS and Article 3 of TRIPS), although once again the principle is handled slightly differently in each of these.
National treatment only applies once a product, service or item of intellectual property has entered the market. Therefore, charging customs duty on an import is not a violation of national treatment even if locally-produced products are not charged an equivalent tax.

Freer trade: gradually, through negotiation
Lowering trade barriers is one of the most obvious means of encouraging trade. The barriers concerned include customs duties (or tariffs) and measures such as import bans or quotas that restrict quantities selectively. From time to time other issues such as red tape and exchange rate policies have also been discussed.
Since GATT’s creation in 1947-48 there have been eight rounds of trade negotiations. A ninth round, under the Doha Development Agenda, is now underway. At first these focused on lowering tariffs (customs duties) on imported goods. As a result of the negotiations, by the mid-1990s industrial countries’ tariff rates on industrial goods had fallen steadily to less than 4%.
But by the 1980s, the negotiations had expanded to cover non-tariff barriers on goods, and to the new areas such as services and intellectual property.
Opening markets can be beneficial, but it also requires adjustment. The WTO agreements allow countries to introduce changes gradually, through “progressive liberalization”. Developing countries are usually given longer to fulfil their obligations.

Predictability: through binding and transparency
Sometimes, promising not to raise a trade barrier can be as important as lowering one, because the promise gives businesses a clearer view of their future opportunities. With stability and predictability, investment is encouraged, jobs are created and consumers can fully enjoy the benefits of competition — choice and lower prices. The multilateral trading system is an attempt by governments to make the business environment stable and predictable.
The Uruguay Round increased bindings
Percentages of tariffs bound before and after the 1986-94 talks
Before After
Developed countries 78 99
Developing countries 21 73
Transition economies 73 98
(These are tariff lines, so percentages are not weighted according to trade volume or value)
In the WTO, when countries agree to open their markets for goods or services, they “bind” their commitments. For goods, these bindings amount to ceilings on customs tariff rates. Sometimes countries tax imports at rates that are lower than the bound rates. Frequently this is the case in developing countries. In developed countries the rates actually charged and the bound rates tend to be the same.
A country can change its bindings, but only after negotiating with its trading partners, which could mean compensating them for loss of trade. One of the achievements of the Uruguay Round of multilateral trade talks was to increase the amount of trade under binding commitments (see table). In agriculture, 100% of products now have bound tariffs. The result of all this: a substantially higher degree of market security for traders and investors.
The system tries to improve predictability and stability in other ways as well. One way is to discourage the use of quotas and other measures used to set limits on quantities of imports — administering quotas can lead to more red-tape and accusations of unfair play. Another is to make countries’ trade rules as clear and public (“transparent”) as possible. Many WTO agreements require governments to disclose their policies and practices publicly within the country or by notifying the WTO. The regular surveillance of national trade policies through the Trade Policy Review Mechanism provides a further means of encouraging transparency both domestically and at the multilateral level.

Promoting fair competition
The WTO is sometimes described as a “free trade” institution, but that is not entirely accurate. The system does allow tariffs and, in limited circumstances, other forms of protection. More accurately, it is a system of rules dedicated to open, fair and undistorted competition.
The rules on non-discrimination — MFN and national treatment — are designed to secure fair conditions of trade. So too are those on dumping (exporting at below cost to gain market share) and subsidies. The issues are complex, and the rules try to establish what is fair or unfair, and how governments can respond, in particular by charging additional import duties calculated to compensate for damage caused by unfair trade.
Many of the other WTO agreements aim to support fair competition: in agriculture, intellectual property, services, for example. The agreement on government procurement (a “plurilateral” agreement because it is signed by only a few WTO members) extends competition rules to purchases by thousands of government entities in many countries. And so on.

Encouraging development and economic reform
The WTO system contributes to development. On the other hand, developing countries need flexibility in the time they take to implement the system’s agreements. And the agreements themselves inherit the earlier provisions of GATT that allow for special assistance and trade concessions for developing countries.
Over three quarters of WTO members are developing countries and countries in transition to market economies. During the seven and a half years of the Uruguay Round, over 60 of these countries implemented trade liberalization programmes autonomously. At the same time, developing countries and transition economies were much more active and influential in the Uruguay Round negotiations than in any previous round, and they are even more so in the current Doha Development Agenda.
At the end of the Uruguay Round, developing countries were prepared to take on most of the obligations that are required of developed countries. But the agreements did give them transition periods to adjust to the more unfamiliar and, perhaps, difficult WTO provisions — particularly so for the poorest, “least-developed” countries. A ministerial decision adopted at the end of the round says better-off countries should accelerate implementing market access commitments on goods exported by the least-developed countries, and it seeks increased technical assistance for them. More recently, developed countries have started to allow duty-free and quota-free imports for almost all products from least-developed countries. On all of this, the WTO and its members are still going through a learning process. The current Doha Development Agenda includes developing countries’ concerns about the difficulties they face in implementing the Uruguay Round agreements.

The case for open trade
The economic case for an open trading system based on multilaterally agreed rules is simple enough and rests largely on commercial common sense. But it is also supported by evidence: the experience of world trade and economic growth since the Second World War. Tariffs on industrial products have fallen steeply and now average less than 5% in industrial countries. During the first 25 years after the war, world economic growth averaged about 5% per year, a high rate that was partly the result of lower trade barriers. World trade grew even faster, averaging about 8% during the period.

The data show a definite statistical link between freer trade and economic growth. Economic theory points to strong reasons for the link. All countries, including the poorest, have assets — human, industrial, natural, financial — which they can employ to produce goods and services for their domestic markets or to compete overseas. Economics tells us that we can benefit when these goods and services are traded. Simply put, the principle of “comparative advantage” says that countries prosper first by taking advantage of their assets in order to concentrate on what they can produce best, and then by trading these products for products that other countries produce best.
In other words, liberal trade policies — policies that allow the unrestricted flow of goods and services — sharpen competition, motivate innovation and breed success. They multiply the rewards that result from producing the best products, with the best design, at the best price.
But success in trade is not static. The ability to compete well in particular products can shift from company to company when the market changes or new technologies make cheaper and better products possible. Producers are encouraged to adapt gradually and in a relatively painless way. They can focus on new products, find a new “niche” in their current area or expand into new areas.
Experience shows that competitiveness can also shift between whole countries. A country that may have enjoyed an advantage because of lower labour costs or because it had good supplies of some natural resources, could also become uncompetitive in some goods or services as its economy develops. However, with the stimulus of an open economy, the country can move on to become competitive in some other goods or services. This is normally a gradual process.
Nevertheless, the temptation to ward off the challenge of competitive imports is always present. And richer governments are more likely to yield to the siren call of protectionism, for short term political gain — through subsidies, complicated red tape, and hiding behind legitimate policy objectives such as environmental preservation or consumer protection as an excuse to protect producers.
Protection ultimately leads to bloated, inefficient producers supplying consumers with outdated, unattractive products. In the end, factories close and jobs are lost despite the protection and subsidies. If other governments around the world pursue the same policies, markets contract and world economic activity is reduced. One of the objectives that governments bring to WTO negotiations is to prevent such a self-defeating and destructive drift into protectionism.

Comparative advantage
This is arguably the single most powerful insight into economics.
Suppose country A is better than country B at making automobiles, and country B is better than country A at making bread. It is obvious (the academics would say “trivial”) that both would benefit if A specialized in automobiles, B specialized in bread and they traded their products. That is a case of absolute advantage.
But what if a country is bad at making everything? Will trade drive all producers out of business? The answer, according to Ricardo, is no. The reason is the principle of comparative advantage.
It says, countries A and B still stand to benefit from trading with each other even if A is better than B at making everything. If A is much more superior at making automobiles and only slightly superior at making bread, then A should still invest resources in what it does best — producing automobiles — and export the product to B. B should still invest in what it does best — making bread — and export that product to A, even if it is not as efficient as A. Both would still benefit from the trade. A country does not have to be best at anything to gain from trade. That is comparative advantage.
The theory dates back to classical economist David Ricardo. It is one of the most widely accepted among economists. It is also one of the most misunderstood among non-economists because it is confused with absolute advantage.
It is often claimed, for example, that some countries have no comparative advantage in anything. That is virtually impossible.
The GATT years: from Havana to Marrakesh
The WTO’s creation on 1 January 1995 marked the biggest reform of international trade since after the Second World War. It also brought to reality — in an updated form — the failed attempt in 1948 to create an International Trade Organization
Much of the history of those 47 years was written in Geneva. But it also traces a journey that spanned the continents, from that hesitant start in 1948 in Havana (Cuba), via Annecy (France), Torquay (UK), Tokyo (Japan), Punta del Este (Uruguay), Montreal (Canada), Brussels (Belgium) and finally to Marrakesh (Morocco) in 1994. During that period, the trading system came under GATT, salvaged from the aborted attempt to create the ITO. GATT helped establish a strong and prosperous multilateral trading system that became more and more liberal through rounds of trade negotiations. But by the 1980s the system needed a thorough overhaul. This led to the Uruguay Round, and ultimately to the WTO.
GATT: ‘provisional’ for almost half a century back to top
From 1948 to 1994, the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) provided the rules for much of world trade and presided over periods that saw some of the highest growth rates in international commerce. It seemed well-established, but throughout those 47 years, it was a provisional agreement and organization.
The original intention was to create a third institution to handle the trade side of international economic cooperation, joining the two “Bretton Woods” institutions, the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund. Over 50 countries participated in negotiations to create an International Trade Organization (ITO) as a specialized agency of the United Nations. The draft ITO Charter was ambitious. It extended beyond world trade disciplines, to include rules on employment, commodity agreements, restrictive business practices, international investment, and services. The aim was to create the ITO at a UN Conference on Trade and Employment in Havana, Cuba in 1947.
Meanwhile, 15 countries had begun talks in December 1945 to reduce and bind customs tariffs. With the Second World War only recently ended, they wanted to give an early boost to trade liberalization, and to begin to correct the legacy of protectionist measures which remained in place from the early 1930s.
This first round of negotiations resulted in a package of trade rules and 45,000 tariff concessions affecting $10 billion of trade, about one fifth of the world’s total. The group had expanded to 23 by the time the deal was signed on 30 October 1947. The tariff concessions came into effect by 30 June 1948 through a “Protocol of Provisional Application”. And so the new General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade was born, with 23 founding members (officially “contracting parties”).
The 23 were also part of the larger group negotiating the ITO Charter. One of the provisions of GATT says that they should accept some of the trade rules of the draft. This, they believed, should be done swiftly and “provisionally” in order to protect the value of the tariff concessions they had negotiated. They spelt out how they envisaged the relationship between GATT and the ITO Charter, but they also allowed for the possibility that the ITO might not be created. They were right.
The Havana conference began on 21 November 1947, less than a month after GATT was signed. The ITO Charter was finally agreed in Havana in March 1948, but ratification in some national legislatures proved impossible. The most serious opposition was in the US Congress, even though the US government had been one of the driving forces. In 1950, the United States government announced that it would not seek Congressional ratification of the Havana Charter, and the ITO was effectively dead. So, the GATT became the only multilateral instrument governing international trade from 1948 until the WTO was established in 1995.
For almost half a century, the GATT’s basic legal principles remained much as they were in 1948. There were additions in the form of a section on development added in the 1960s and “plurilateral” agreements (i.e. with voluntary membership) in the 1970s, and efforts to reduce tariffs further continued. Much of this was achieved through a series of multilateral negotiations known as “trade rounds” — the biggest leaps forward in international trade liberalization have come through these rounds which were held under GATT’s auspices.
In the early years, the GATT trade rounds concentrated on further reducing tariffs. Then, the Kennedy Round in the mid-sixties brought about a GATT Anti-Dumping Agreement and a section on development. The Tokyo Round during the seventies was the first major attempt to tackle trade barriers that do not take the form of tariffs, and to improve the system. The eighth, the Uruguay Round of 1986-94, was the last and most extensive of all. It led to the WTO and a new set of agreements.

The Tokyo Round: a first try to reform the system
The Tokyo Round lasted from 1973 to 1979, with 102 countries participating. It continued GATT’s efforts to progressively reduce tariffs. The results included an average one-third cut in customs duties in the world’s nine major industrial markets, bringing the average tariff on industrial products down to 4.7%. The tariff reductions, phased in over a period of eight years, involved an element of “harmonization” — the higher the tariff, the larger the cut, proportionally.
In other issues, the Tokyo Round had mixed results. It failed to come to grips with the fundamental problems affecting farm trade and also stopped short of providing a modified agreement on “safeguards” (emergency import measures). Nevertheless, a series of agreements on non-tariff barriers did emerge from the negotiations, in some cases interpreting existing GATT rules, in others breaking entirely new ground. In most cases, only a relatively small number of (mainly industrialized) GATT members subscribed to these agreements and arrangements. Because they were not accepted by the full GATT membership, they were often informally called “codes”.
They were not multilateral, but they were a beginning. Several codes were eventually amended in the Uruguay Round and turned into multilateral commitments accepted by all WTO members. Only four remained “plurilateral” — those on government procurement, bovine meat, civil aircraft and dairy products. In 1997 WTO members agreed to terminate the bovine meat and dairy agreements, leaving only two.

Did GATT succeed?
GATT was provisional with a limited field of action, but its success over 47 years in promoting and securing the liberalization of much of world trade is incontestable. Continual reductions in tariffs alone helped spur very high rates of world trade growth during the 1950s and 1960s — around 8% a year on average. And the momentum of trade liberalization helped ensure that trade growth consistently out-paced production growth throughout the GATT era, a measure of countries’ increasing ability to trade with each other and to reap the benefits of trade. The rush of new members during the Uruguay Round demonstrated that the multilateral trading system was recognized as an anchor for development and an instrument of economic and trade reform.
But all was not well. As time passed new problems arose. The Tokyo Round in the 1970s was an attempt to tackle some of these but its achievements were limited. This was a sign of difficult times to come.
GATT’s success in reducing tariffs to such a low level, combined with a series of economic recessions in the 1970s and early 1980s, drove governments to devise other forms of protection for sectors facing increased foreign competition. High rates of unemployment and constant factory closures led governments in Western Europe and North America to seek bilateral market-sharing arrangements with competitors and to embark on a subsidies race to maintain their holds on agricultural trade. Both these changes undermined GATT’s credibility and effectiveness.
The problem was not just a deteriorating trade policy environment. By the early 1980s the General Agreement was clearly no longer as relevant to the realities of world trade as it had been in the 1940s. For a start, world trade had become far more complex and important than 40 years before: the globalization of the world economy was underway, trade in services — not covered by GATT rules — was of major interest to more and more countries, and international investment had expanded. The expansion of services trade was also closely tied to further increases in world merchandise trade. In other respects, GATT had been found wanting. For instance, in agriculture, loopholes in the multilateral system were heavily exploited, and efforts at liberalizing agricultural trade met with little success. In the textiles and clothing sector, an exception to GATT’s normal disciplines was negotiated in the 1960s and early 1970s, leading to the Multifibre Arrangement. Even GATT’s institutional structure and its dispute settlement system were causing concern.
These and other factors convinced GATT members that a new effort to reinforce and extend the multilateral system should be attempted. That effort resulted in the Uruguay Round, the Marrakesh Declaration, and the creation of the WTO.
The Uruguay Round
It took seven and a half years, almost twice the original schedule. By the end, 123 countries were taking part. It covered almost all trade, from toothbrushes to pleasure boats, from banking to telecommunications, from the genes of wild rice to AIDS treatments. It was quite simply the largest trade negotiation ever, and most probably the largest negotiation of any kind in history
At times it seemed doomed to fail. But in the end, the Uruguay Round brought about the biggest reform of the world’s trading system since GATT was created at the end of the Second World War. And yet, despite its troubled progress, the Uruguay Round did see some early results. Within only two years, participants had agreed on a package of cuts in import duties on tropical products — which are mainly exported by developing countries. They had also revised the rules for settling disputes, with some measures implemented on the spot. And they called for regular reports on GATT members’ trade policies, a move considered important for making trade regimes transparent around the world.

A round to end all rounds?
The seeds of the Uruguay Round were sown in November 1982 at a ministerial meeting of GATT members in Geneva. Although the ministers intended to launch a major new negotiation, the conference stalled on agriculture and was widely regarded as a failure. In fact, the work programme that the ministers agreed formed the basis for what was to become the Uruguay Round negotiating agenda.
Nevertheless, it took four more years of exploring, clarifying issues and painstaking consensus-building, before ministers agreed to launch the new round. They did so in September 1986, in Punta del Este, Uruguay. They eventually accepted a negotiating agenda that covered virtually every outstanding trade policy issue. The talks were going to extend the trading system into several new areas, notably trade in services and intellectual property, and to reform trade in the sensitive sectors of agriculture and textiles. All the original GATT articles were up for review. It was the biggest negotiating mandate on trade ever agreed, and the ministers gave themselves four years to complete it.
Two years later, in December 1988, ministers met again in Montreal, Canada, for what was supposed to be an assessment of progress at the round’s half-way point. The purpose was to clarify the agenda for the remaining two years, but the talks ended in a deadlock that was not resolved until officials met more quietly in Geneva the following April.
Despite the difficulty, during the Montreal meeting, ministers did agree a package of early results. These included some concessions on market access for tropical products — aimed at assisting developing countries — as well as a streamlined dispute settlement system, and the Trade Policy Review Mechanism which provided for the first comprehensive, systematic and regular reviews of national trade policies and practices of GATT members. The round was supposed to end when ministers met once more in Brussels, in December 1990. But they disagreed on how to reform agricultural trade and decided to extend the talks. The Uruguay Round entered its bleakest period.
Despite the poor political outlook, a considerable amount of technical work continued, leading to the first draft of a final legal agreement. This draft “Final Act” was compiled by the then GATT director-general, Arthur Dunkel, who chaired the negotiations at officials’ level. It was put on the table in Geneva in December 1991. The text fulfilled every part of the Punta del Este mandate, with one exception — it did not contain the participating countries’ lists of commitments for cutting import duties and opening their services markets. The draft became the basis for the final agreement.
Over the following two years, the negotiations lurched between impending failure, to predictions of imminent success. Several deadlines came and went. New points of major conflict emerged to join agriculture: services, market access, anti-dumping rules, and the proposed creation of a new institution. Differences between the United States and European Union became central to hopes for a final, successful conclusion.
In November 1992, the US and EU settled most of their differences on agriculture in a deal known informally as the “Blair House accord”. By July 1993 the “Quad” (US, EU, Japan and Canada) announced significant progress in negotiations on tariffs and related subjects (“market access”). It took until 15 December 1993 for every issue to be finally resolved and for negotiations on market access for goods and services to be concluded (although some final touches were completed in talks on market access a few weeks later). On 15 April 1994, the deal was signed by ministers from most of the 123 participating governments at a meeting in Marrakesh, Morocco.
The delay had some merits. It allowed some negotiations to progress further than would have been possible in 1990: for example some aspects of services and intellectual property, and the creation of the WTO itself. But the task had been immense, and negotiation-fatigue was felt in trade bureaucracies around the world. The difficulty of reaching agreement on a complete package containing almost the entire range of current trade issues led some to conclude that a negotiation on this scale would never again be possible. Yet, the Uruguay Round agreements contain timetables for new negotiations on a number of topics. And by 1996, some countries were openly calling for a new round early in the next century. The response was mixed; but the Marrakesh agreement did already include commitments to reopen negotiations on agriculture and services at the turn of the century. These began in early 2000 and were incorporated into the Doha Development Agenda in late 2001.

What happened to GATT?
The WTO replaced GATT as an international organization, but the General Agreement still exists as the WTO’s umbrella treaty for trade in goods, updated as a result of the Uruguay Round negotiations. Trade lawyers distinguish between GATT 1994, the updated parts of GATT, and GATT 1947, the original agreement which is still the heart of GATT 1994. Confusing? For most of us, it’s enough to refer simply to “GATT”.

The post-Uruguay Round built-in agenda
Many of the Uruguay Round agreements set timetables for future work. Part of this “built-in agenda” started almost immediately. In some areas, it included new or further negotiations. In other areas, it included assessments or reviews of the situation at specified times. Some negotiations were quickly completed, notably in basic telecommunications, financial services. (Member governments also swiftly agreed a deal for freer trade in information technology products, an issue outside the “built-in agenda”.)
The agenda originally built into the Uruguay Round agreements has seen additions and modifications. A number of items are now part of the Doha Agenda, some of them updated.
There were well over 30 items in the original built-in agenda. This is a selection of highlights:
1996
• Maritime services: market access negotiations to end (30 June 1996, suspended to 2000, now part of Doha Development Agenda)
• Services and environment: deadline for working party report (ministerial conference, December 1996)
• Government procurement of services: negotiations start
1997
• Basic telecoms: negotiations end (15 February)
• Financial services: negotiations end (30 December)
• Intellectual property, creating a multilateral system of notification and registration of geographical indications for wines: negotiations start, now part of Doha Development Agenda
1998
• Textiles and clothing: new phase begins 1 January
• Services (emergency safeguards): results of negotiations on emergency safeguards to take effect (by 1 January 1998, deadline now March 2004)
• Rules of origin: Work programme on harmonization of rules of origin to be completed (20 July 1998)
• Government procurement: further negotiations start, for improving rules and procedures (by end of 1998)
• Dispute settlement: full review of rules and procedures (to start by end of 1998)
1999
• Intellectual property: certain exceptions to patentability and protection of plant varieties: review starts
2000
• Agriculture: negotiations start, now part of Doha Development Agenda
• Services: new round of negotiations start, now part of Doha Development Agenda
• Tariff bindings: review of definition of “principle supplier” having negotiating rights under GATT Art 28 on modifying bindings
• Intellectual property: first of two-yearly reviews of the implementation of the agreement
2002
• Textiles and clothing: new phase begins 1 January
2005
• Textiles and clothing: full integration into GATT and agreement expires 1 January

Tariffs:
The bulkiest results of Uruguay Round are the 22,500 pages listing individual countries’ commitments on specific categories of goods and services. These include commitments to cut and “bind” their customs duty rates on imports of goods. In some cases, tariffs are being cut to zero. There is also a significant increase in the number of “bound” tariffs — duty rates that are committed in the WTO and are difficult to raise Tariff cuts
Developed countries’ tariff cuts were for the most part phased in over five years from 1 January 1995. The result is a 40% cut in their tariffs on industrial products, from an average of 6.3% to 3.8%. The value of imported industrial products that receive duty-free treatment in developed countries will jump from 20% to 44%.
There will also be fewer products charged high duty rates. The proportion of imports into developed countries from all sources facing tariffs rates of more than 15% will decline from 7% to 5%. The proportion of developing country exports facing tariffs above 15% in industrial countries will fall from 9% to 5%.
The Uruguay Round package has been improved. On 26 March 1997, 40 countries accounting for more than 92% of world trade in information technology products, agreed to eliminate import duties and other charges on these products by 2000 (by 2005 in a handful of cases). As with other tariff commitments, each participating country is applying its commitments equally to exports from all WTO members (i.e. on a most-favoured-nation basis), even from members that did not make commitments.

More bindings
Developed countries increased the number of imports whose tariff rates are “bound” (committed and difficult to increase) from 78% of product lines to 99%. For developing countries, the increase was considerable: from 21% to 73%. Economies in transition from central planning increased their bindings from 73% to 98%. This all means a substantially higher degree of market security for traders and investors.
agriculture
Tariffs on all agricultural products are now bound. Almost all import restrictions that did not take the form of tariffs, such as quotas, have been converted to tariffs — a process known as “tariffication”. This has made markets substantially more predictable for agriculture. Previously more than 30% of agricultural produce had faced quotas or import restrictions. The first step in “tariffication” was to replace these restrictions with tariffs that represented about the same level of protection. Then, over six years from 1995-2000, these tariffs were gradually reduced (the reduction period for developing countries ends in 2005). The market access commitments on agriculture also eliminate previous import bans on certain products.
In addition, the lists include countries’ commitments to reduce domestic support and export subsidies for agricultural products.
Agriculture: fairer markets for farmers
The original GATT did apply to agricultural trade, but it contained loopholes. For example, it allowed countries to use some non-tariff measures such as import quotas, and to subsidize. Agricultural trade became highly distorted, especially with the use of export subsidies which would not normally have been allowed for industrial products. The Uruguay Round produced the first multilateral agreement dedicated to the sector. It was a significant first step towards order, fair competition and a less distorted sector. It was implemented over a six year period (and is still being implemented by developing countries under their 10-year period), that began in 1995. The Uruguay Round agreement included a commitment to continue the reform through new negotiations. These were launched in 2000, as required by the Agriculture Agreement.
The Agriculture Agreement: new rules and commitments
The objective of the Agriculture Agreement is to reform trade in the sector and to make policies more market-oriented. This would improve predictability and security for importing and exporting countries alike.
The new rules and commitments apply to:
• market access — various trade restrictions confronting imports
• domestic support — subsidies and other programmes, including those that raise or guarantee farmgate prices and farmers’ incomes
• export subsidies and other methods used to make exports artificially competitive.
The agreement does allow governments to support their rural economies, but preferably through policies that cause less distortion to trade. It also allows some flexibility in the way commitments are implemented. Developing countries do not have to cut their subsidies or lower their tariffs as much as developed countries, and they are given extra time to complete their obligations. Least-developed countries don’t have to do this at all. Special provisions deal with the interests of countries that rely on imports for their food supplies, and the concerns of least-developed economies.
“Peace” provisions within the agreement aim to reduce the likelihood of disputes or challenges on agricultural subsidies over a period of nine years, until the end of 2003.

Market access: ‘tariffs only’, please
The new rule for market access in agricultural products is “tariffs only”. Before the Uruguay Round, some agricultural imports were restricted by quotas and other non-tariff measures. These have been replaced by tariffs that provide more-or-less equivalent levels of protection — if the previous policy meant domestic prices were 75% higher than world prices, then the new tariff could be around 75%. (Converting the quotas and other types of measures to tariffs in this way was called “tariffication”.)

The tariffication package contained more. It ensured that quantities imported before the agreement took effect could continue to be imported, and it guaranteed that some new quantities were charged duty rates that were not prohibitive. This was achieved by a system of “tariff-quotas” — lower tariff rates for specified quantities, higher (sometimes much higher) rates for quantities that exceed the quota.
The newly committed tariffs and tariff quotas, covering all agricultural products, took effect in 1995. Uruguay Round participants agreed that developed countries would cut the tariffs (the higher out-of-quota rates in the case of tariff-quotas) by an average of 36%, in equal steps over six years. Developing countries would make 24% cuts over 10 years. Several developing countries also used the option of offering ceiling tariff rates in cases where duties were not “bound” (i.e. committed under GATT or WTO regulations) before the Uruguay Round. Least-developed countries do not have to cut their tariffs. (These figures do not actually appear in the Agriculture Agreement. Participants used them to prepare their schedules — i.e. lists of commitments. It is the commitments listed in the schedules that are legally binding.)
For products whose non-tariff restrictions have been converted to tariffs, governments are allowed to take special emergency actions (“special safeguards”) in order to prevent swiftly falling prices or surges in imports from hurting their farmers. But the agreement specifies when and how those emergency actions can be introduced (for example, they cannot be used on imports within a tariff-quota).
Four countries used “special treatment” provisions to restrict imports of particularly sensitive products (mainly rice) during the implementation period (to 2000 for developed countries, to 2004 for developing nations), but subject to strictly defined conditions, including minimum access for overseas suppliers. The four were: Japan, Rep. of Korea, and the Philippines for rice; and Israel for sheepmeat, wholemilk powder and certain cheeses. Japan and Israel have now given up this right, but Rep. of Korea and the Philippines have extended their special treatment for rice. A new member, Chinese Taipei, gave special treatment to rice in its first year of membership, 2002.

Domestic support: some you can, some you can’t
The main complaint about policies which support domestic prices, or subsidize production in some other way, is that they encourage over-production. This squeezes out imports or leads to export subsidies and low-priced dumping on world markets. The Agriculture Agreement distinguishes between support programmes that stimulate production directly, and those that are considered to have no direct effect.
Domestic policies that do have a direct effect on production and trade have to be cut back. WTO members calculated how much support of this kind they were providing per year for the agricultural sector (using calculations known as “total aggregate measurement of support” or “Total AMS”) in the base years of 1986-88. Developed countries agreed to reduce these figures by 20% over six years starting in 1995. Developing countries agreed to make 13% cuts over 10 years. Least-developed countries do not need to make any cuts. (This category of domestic support is sometimes called the “amber box”, a reference to the amber colour of traffic lights, which means “slow down”.)
Measures with minimal impact on trade can be used freely — they are in a “green box” (“green” as in traffic lights). They include government services such as research, disease control, infrastructure and food security. They also include payments made directly to farmers that do not stimulate production, such as certain forms of direct income support, assistance to help farmers restructure agriculture, and direct payments under environmental and regional assistance programmes.
Also permitted, are certain direct payments to farmers where the farmers are required to limit production (sometimes called “blue box” measures), certain government assistance programmes to encourage agricultural and rural development in developing countries, and other support on a small scale (“de minimis”) when compared with the total value of the product or products supported (5% or less in the case of developed countries and 10% or less for developing countries).

Export subsidies: limits on spending and quantities
The Agriculture Agreement prohibits export subsidies on agricultural products unless the subsidies are specified in a member’s lists of commitments. Where they are listed, the agreement requires WTO members to cut both the amount of money they spend on export subsidies and the quantities of exports that receive subsidies. Taking averages for 1986-90 as the base level, developed countries agreed to cut the value of export subsidies by 36% over the six years starting in 1995 (24% over 10 years for developing countries). Developed countries also agreed to reduce the quantities of subsidized exports by 21% over the six years (14% over 10 years for developing countries). Least-developed countries do not need to make any cuts.
During the six-year implementation period, developing countries are allowed under certain conditions to use subsidies to reduce the costs of marketing and transporting exports.

The least-developed and those depending on food imports
Under the Agriculture Agreement, WTO members have to reduce their subsidized exports. But some importing countries depend on supplies of cheap, subsidized food from the major industrialized nations. They include some of the poorest countries, and although their farming sectors might receive a boost from higher prices caused by reduced export subsidies, they might need temporary assistance to make the necessary adjustments to deal with higher priced imports, and eventually to export. A special ministerial decision sets out objectives, and certain measures, for the provision of food aid and aid for agricultural development. It also refers to the possibility of assistance from the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank to finance commercial food imports
Standards and safety
Article 20 of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) allows governments to act on trade in order to protect human, animal or plant life or health, provided they do not discriminate or use this as disguised protectionism. In addition, there are two specific WTO agreements dealing with food safety and animal and plant health and safety, and with product standards in general. Both try to identify how to meet the need to apply standards and at the same time avoid protectionism in disguise. These issues are becoming more important as tariff barriers fall — some compare this to seabed rocks appearing when the tide goes down. In both cases, if a country applies international standards, it is less likely to be challenged legally in the WTO than if it sets its own standards.
Food, animal and plant products: how safe is safe?
Problem: How do you ensure that your country’s consumers are being supplied with food that is safe to eat — “safe” by the standards you consider appropriate? And at the same time, how can you ensure that strict health and safety regulations are not being used as an excuse for protecting domestic producers?
A separate agreement on food safety and animal and plant health standards (the Sanitary and Phytosanitary Measures Agreement or SPS) sets out the basic rules.
It allows countries to set their own standards. But it also says regulations must be based on science. They should be applied only to the extent necessary to protect human, animal or plant life or health. And they should not arbitrarily or unjustifiably discriminate between countries where identical or similar conditions prevail.
Member countries are encouraged to use international standards, guidelines and recommendations where they exist. When they do, they are unlikely to be challenged legally in a WTO dispute. However, members may use measures which result in higher standards if there is scientific justification. They can also set higher standards based on appropriate assessment of risks so long as the approach is consistent, not arbitrary. And they can to some extent apply the “precautionary principle”, a kind of “safety first” approach to deal with scientific uncertainty. Article 5.7 of the SPS Agreement allows temporary “precautionary” measures.
The agreement still allows countries to use different standards and different methods of inspecting products. So how can an exporting country be sure the practices it applies to its products are acceptable in an importing country? If an exporting country can demonstrate that the measures it applies to its exports achieve the same level of health protection as in the importing country, then the importing country is expected to accept the exporting country’s standards and methods.
The agreement includes provisions on control, inspection and approval procedures. Governments must provide advance notice of new or changed sanitary and phytosanitary regulations, and establish a national enquiry point to provide information. The agreement complements that on technical barriers to trade.
> more on sanitary and phytosanitary measures

Technical regulations and standards
Technical regulations and standards are important, but they vary from country to country. Having too many different standards makes life difficult for producers and exporters. If the standards are set arbitrarily, they could be used as an excuse for protectionism. Standards can become obstacles to trade. But they are also necessary for a range of reasons, from environmental protection, safety, national security to consumer information. And they can help trade. Therefore the same basic question arises again: how to ensure that standards are genuinely useful, and not arbitrary or an excuse for protectionism.
The Technical Barriers to Trade Agreement (TBT) tries to ensure that regulations, standards, testing and certification procedures do not create unnecessary obstacles.
However, the agreement also recognizes countries’ rights to adopt the standards they consider appropriate — for example, for human, animal or plant life or health, for the protection of the environment or to meet other consumer interests. Moreover, members are not prevented from taking measures necessary to ensure their standards are met. But that is counterbalanced with disciplines. A myriad of regulations can be a nightmare for manufacturers and exporters. Life can be simpler if governments apply international standards, and the agreement encourages them to do so In any case, whatever regulations they use should not discriminate.
The agreement also sets out a code of good practice for both governments and non-governmental or industry bodies to prepare, adopt and apply voluntary standards. Over 200 standards-setting bodies apply the code.
The agreement says the procedures used to decide whether a product conforms with revelant standards have to be fair and equitable. It discourages any methods that would give domestically produced goods an unfair advantage. The agreement also encourages countries to recognize each other’s procedures for assessing whether a product conforms. Without recognition, products might have to be tested twice, first by the exporting country and then by the importing country.
Manufacturers and exporters need to know what the latest standards are in their prospective markets. To help ensure that this information is made available conveniently, all WTO member governments are required to establish national enquiry points and to keep each other informed through the WTO — around 900 new or changed regulations are notified each year. The Technical Barriers to Trade Committee is the major clearing house for members to share the information and the major forum to discuss concerns about the regulations and their implementation.
Textiles: back in the mainstream
Textiles, like agriculture, was one of the hardest-fought issues in the WTO, as it was in the former GATT system. It has now completed fundamental change under a 10-year schedule agreed in the Uruguay Round. The system of import quotas that dominated the trade since the early 1960s have now been phased out.
From 1974 until the end of the Uruguay Round, the trade was governed by the Multifibre Arrangement (MFA). This was a framework for bilateral agreements or unilateral actions that established quotas limiting imports into countries whose domestic industries were facing serious damage from rapidly increasing imports.
The quotas were the most visible feature. They conflicted with GATT’s general preference for customs tariffs instead of measures that restrict quantities. They were also exceptions to the GATT principle of treating all trading partners equally because they specified how much the importing country was going to accept from individual exporting countries.
Since 1995, the WTO’s Agreement on Textiles and Clothing (ATC) took over from the Mulltifibre Arrangement. By 1 January 2005, the sector was fully integrated into normal GATT rules. In particular, the quotas came to an end, and importing countries are no longer be able to discriminate between exporters. The Agreement on Textiles and Clothing no longer exists: it’s the only WTO agreement that had self-destruction built in.

Integration: returning products gradually to GATT rules back to top
Textiles and clothing products were returned to GATT rules over the 10-year period. This happened gradually, in four steps, to allow time for both importers and exporters to adjust to the new situation. Some of these products were previously under quotas. Any quotas that were in place on 31 December 1994 were carried over into the new agreement. For products that had quotas, the result of integration into GATT was the removal of these quotas.
The agreement stated the percentage of products that had to be brought under GATT rules at each step. If any of these products came under quotas, then the quotas had to be removed at the same time. The percentages were applied to the importing country’s textiles and clothing trade levels in 1990. The agreement also said the quantities of imports permitted under the quotas had to grow annually, and that the rate of expansion had to increase at each stage. How fast that expansion would be was set out in a formula based on the growth rate that existed under the old Multifibre Arrangement

Products brought under GATT rules at each of the first three stages had to cover the four main types of textiles and clothing: tops and yarns; fabrics; made-up textile products; and clothing. Any other restrictions that did not come under the Multifibre Arrangement and did not conform with regular WTO agreements by 1996 had to be made to conform or be phased out by 2005.

If further cases of damage to the industry arose during the transition, the agreement allowed additional restrictions to be imposed temporarily under strict conditions. These “transitional safeguards” were not the same as the safeguard measures normally allowed under GATT because they can be applied on imports from specific exporting countries. But the importing country had to show that its domestic industry was suffering serious damage or was threatened with serious damage. And it had to show that the damage was the result of two things: increased imports of the product in question from all sources, and a sharp and substantial increase from the specific exporting country. The safeguard restriction could be implemented either by mutual agreement following consultations, or unilaterally. It was subject to review by the Textiles Monitoring Body.
In any system where quotas are set for individual exporting countries, exporters might try to get around the quotas by shipping products through third countries or making false declarations about the products’ country of origin. The agreement included provisions to cope with these cases.
The agreement envisaged special treatment for certain categories of countries — for example, new market entrants, small suppliers, and least-developed countries.
A Textiles Monitoring Body (TMB) supervised the agreement’s implementation. It consisted of a chairman and 10 members acting in their personal capacity. It monitored actions taken under the agreement to ensure that they were consistent, and it reported to the Goods Council which reviewed the operation of the agreement before each new step of the integration process. The Textiles Monitoring Body also dealt with disputes under the Agreement on Textiles and Clothing. If they remained unresolved, the disputes could be brought to the WTO’s regular Dispute Settlement Body. When the Textiles and Clothing Agreement expired on 1 January 2005, the Textiles Monitoring Body also ceased to exist.
Services: rules for growth and investment
The General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS) is the first and only set of multilateral rules governing international trade in services. Negotiated in the Uruguay Round, it was developed in response to the huge growth of the services economy over the past 30 years and the greater potential for trading services brought about by the communications revolution
Services represent the fastest growing sector of the global economy and account for two thirds of global output, one third of global employment and nearly 20% of global trade.
When the idea of bringing rules on services into the multilateral trading system was floated in the early to mid 1980s, a number of countries were sceptical and even opposed. They believed such an agreement could undermine governments’ ability to pursue national policy objectives and constrain their regulatory powers. The agreement that was developed, however, allows a high degree of flexibility, both within the framework of rules and also in terms of the market access commitments.

GATS explained
The General Agreement on Trade in Services has three elements: the main text containing general obligations and disciplines; annexes dealing with rules for specific sectors; and individual countries’ specific commitments to provide access to their markets, including indications of where countries are temporarily not applying the “most-favoured-nation” principle of non-discrimination.

General obligations and disciplines
Total coverage The agreement covers all internationally-traded services — for example, banking, telecommunications, tourism, professional services, etc. It also defines four ways (or “modes”) of trading services:
services supplied from one country to another (e.g. international telephone calls), officially known as “cross-border supply” (in WTO jargon, “mode 1”)
consumers or firms making use of a service in another country (e.g. tourism), officially “consumption abroad” (“mode 2”)
a foreign company setting up subsidiaries or branches to provide services in another country (e.g. foreign banks setting up operations in a country), officially “commercial presence” (“mode 3”)
individuals travelling from their own country to supply services in another (e.g. fashion models or consultants), officially “presence of natural persons” (“mode 4”)
Most-favoured-nation (MFN) treatment Favour one, favour all. MFN means treating one’s trading partners equally on the principle of non-discrimination. Under GATS, if a country allows foreign competition in a sector, equal opportunities in that sector should be given to service providers from all other WTO members. (This applies even if the country has made no specific commitment to provide foreign companies access to its markets under the WTO.)
MFN applies to all services, but some special temporary exemptions have been allowed. When GATS came into force, a number of countries already had preferential agreements in services that they had signed with trading partners, either bilaterally or in small groups. WTO members felt it was necessary to maintain these preferences temporarily. They gave themselves the right to continue giving more favourable treatment to particular countries in particular services activities by listing “MFN exemptions” alongside their first sets of commitments. In order to protect the general MFN principle, the exemptions could only be made once; nothing can be added to the lists. They are currently being reviewed as mandated, and will normally last no more than ten years.
Commitments on market access and national treatment Individual countries’ commitments to open markets in specific sectors — and how open those markets will be — are the outcome of negotiations. The commitments appear in “schedules” that list the sectors being opened, the extent of market access being given in those sectors (e.g. whether there are any restrictions on foreign ownership), and any limitations on national treatment (whether some rights granted to local companies will not be granted to foreign companies). So, for example, if a government commits itself to allow foreign banks to operate in its domestic market, that is a market-access commitment. And if the government limits the number of licences it will issue, then that is a market-access limitation. If it also says foreign banks are only allowed one branch while domestic banks are allowed numerous branches, that is an exception to the national treatment principle.
These clearly defined commitments are “bound”: like bound tariffs for trade in goods, they can only be modified after negotiations with affected countries. Because “unbinding” is difficult, the commitments are virtually guaranteed conditions for foreign exporters and importers of services and investors in the sector to do business.
Governmental services are explicitly carved out of the agreement and there is nothing in GATS that forces a government to privatize service industries. In fact the word “privatize” does not even appear in GATS. Nor does it outlaw government or even private monopolies.
The carve-out is an explicit commitment by WTO governments to allow publicly funded services in core areas of their responsibility. Governmental services are defined in the agreement as those that are not supplied commercially and do not compete with other suppliers. These services are not subject to any GATS disciplines, they are not covered by the negotiations, and commitments on market access and national treatment (treating foreign and domestic companies equally) do not apply to them.
GATS’ approach to making commitments means that members are not obliged to do so on the whole universe of services sectors. A government may not want to make a commitment on the level of foreign competition in a given sector, because it considers the sector to be a core governmental function or indeed for any other reason. In this case, the government’s only obligations are minimal, for example to be transparent in regulating the sector, and not to discriminate between foreign suppliers.
Transparency GATS says governments must publish all relevant laws and regulations, and set up enquiry points within their bureaucracies. Foreign companies and governments can then use these inquiry points to obtain information about regulations in any service sector. And they have to notify the WTO of any changes in regulations that apply to the services that come under specific commitments.
Regulations: objective and reasonable Since domestic regulations are the most significant means of exercising influence or control over services trade, the agreement says governments should regulate services reasonably, objectively and impartially. When a government makes an administrative decision that affects a service, it should also provide an impartial means for reviewing the decision (for example a tribunal).
GATS does not require any service to be deregulated. Commitments to liberalize do not affect governments’ right to set levels of quality, safety, or price, or to introduce regulations to pursue any other policy objective they see fit. A commitment to national treatment, for example, would only mean that the same regulations would apply to foreign suppliers as to nationals. Governments naturally retain their right to set qualification requirements for doctors or lawyers, and to set standards to ensure consumer health and safety.
Recognition When two (or more) governments have agreements recognizing each other’s qualifications (for example, the licensing or certification of service suppliers), GATS says other members must also be given a chance to negotiate comparable pacts. The recognition of other countries’ qualifications must not be discriminatory, and it must not amount to protectionism in disguise. These recognition agreements have to be notified to the WTO.
International payments and transfers Once a government has made a commitment to open a service sector to foreign competition, it must not normally restrict money being transferred out of the country as payment for services supplied (“current transactions”) in that sector. The only exception is when there are balance-of-payments difficulties, and even then the restrictions must be temporary and subject to other limits and conditions.
Progressive liberalization The Uruguay Round was only the beginning. GATS requires more negotiations, which began in early 2000 and are now part of the Doha Development Agenda. The goal is to take the liberalization process further by increasing the level of commitments in schedules.
The annexes: services are not all the same
International trade in goods is a relatively simple idea to grasp: a product is transported from one country to another. Trade in services is much more diverse. Telephone companies, banks, airlines and accountancy firms provide their services in quite different ways. The GATS annexes reflect some of the diversity.
Movement of natural persons This annex deals with negotiations on individuals’ rights to stay temporarily in a country for the purpose of providing a service. It specifies that the agreement does not apply to people seeking permanent employment or to conditions for obtaining citizenship, permanent residence or permanent employment.
Financial services Instability in the banking system affects the whole economy. The financial services annex gives governments very wide latitude to take prudential measures, such as those for the protection of investors, depositors and insurance policy holders, and to ensure the integrity and stability of the financial system. The annex also excludes from the agreement services provided when a government is exercising its authority over the financial system, for example central banks’ services.
Telecommunications The telecommunications sector has a dual role: it is a distinct sector of economic activity; and it is an underlying means of supplying other economic activities (for example electronic money transfers). The annex says governments must ensure that foreign service suppliers are given access to the public telecommunications networks without discrimination.
Air transport services Under this annex, traffic rights and directly related activities are excluded from GATS’s coverage. They are handled by other bilateral agreements. However, the annex establishes that the GATS will apply to aircraft repair and maintenance services, marketing of air transport services and computer-reservation services. Members are currently reviewing the annex.

Current work
GATS sets a heavy work programme covering a wide range of subjects. Work on some of the subjects started in 1995, as required, soon after GATS came into force in January 1995. Negotiations to further liberalize international trade in services started in 2000, along with other work involving study and review.
Negotiations (Article 19) Negotiations to further liberalize international trade in services started in early 2000 as mandated by GATS (Article 19).
The first phase of the negotiations ended successfully in March 2001 when members agreed on the guidelines and procedures for the negotiations, a key element in the negotiating mandate. By agreeing these guidelines, members set the objectives, scope and method for the negotiations in a clear and balanced manner.
They also unequivocally endorsed some of GATS’ fundamental principles — i.e. members’ right to regulate and to introduce new regulations on the supply of services in pursuit of national policy objectives; their right to specify which services they wish to open to foreign suppliers and under which conditions; and the overarching principle of flexibility for developing and least-developed countries. The guidelines are therefore sensitive to public policy concerns in important sectors such as health-care, public education and cultural industries, while stressing the importance of liberalization in general, and ensuring foreign service providers have effective access to domestic markets.
The 2001 Doha Ministerial Declaration incorporated these negotiations into the “single undertaking” of the Doha Development Agenda. Since July 2002, a process of bilateral negotiations on market access has been underway.
Work on GATS rules (Articles 10, 13, and 15) Negotiations started in 1995 and are continuing on the development of possible disciplines that are not yet included in GATS: rules on emergency safeguard measures, government procurement and subsidies. Work so far has concentrated on safeguards. These are temporary limitations on market access to deal with market disruption, and the negotiations aim to set up procedures and disciplines for governments using these. Several deadlines have been missed. The current aim is for the results to come into effect at the same time as those of the current services negotiations.
Work on domestic regulations (Article 4.4) Work started in 1995 to establish disciplines on domestic regulations — i.e. the requirements foreign service suppliers have to meet in order to operate in a market. The focus is on qualification requirements and procedures, technical standards and licensing requirements. By December 1998, members had agreed disciplines on domestic regulations for the accountancy sector. Since then, members have been engaged in developing general disciplines for all professional services and, where necessary, additional sectoral disciplines. All the agreed disciplines will be integrated into GATS and become legally binding by the end of the current services negotiations.
MFN exemptions (Annex on Article 2) Work on this subject started in 2000. When GATS came into force in 1995, members were allowed a once-only opportunity to take an exemption from the MFN principle of non-discrimination between a member’s trading partners. The measure for which the exemption was taken is described in a member’s MFN exemption list, indicating to which member the more favourable treatment applies, and specifying its duration. In principle, these exemptions should not last for more than ten years. As mandated by GATS, all these exemptions are currently being reviewed to examine whether the conditions which created the need for these exemptions in the first place still exist. And in any case, they are part of the current services negotiations.
Taking account of “autonomous” liberalization (Article 19) Countries that have liberalized on their own initiative since the last multilateral negotiations want that to be taken into account when they negotiate market access in services. The negotiating guidelines and procedures that members agreed in March 2001 for the GATS negotiations also call for criteria for taking this “autonomous” or unilateral liberalization into account. These were agreed on 6 March 2003.
Special treatment for least-developed countries (Article 19) GATS mandates members to establish how to give special treatment to least-developed countries during the negotiations. (These “modalities” cover both the scope of the special treatment, and the methods to be used.) The least-developed countries began the discussions in March 2002. As a result of subsequent discussions, Members agreed the modalities on 3 September 2003.
Assessment of trade in services (Article 19) Preparatory work on this subject started in early 1999. GATS mandates that members assess trade in services, including the GATS objective of increasing the developing countries’ participation in services trade. The negotiating guidelines reiterate this, requiring the negotiations to be adjusted in response to the assessment. Members generally acknowledge that the shortage of statistical information and other methodological problems make it impossible to conduct an assessment based on full data. However, they are continuing their discussions with the assistance of several papers produced by the Secretariat.
Air transport services At present, most of the air transport sector — traffic rights and services directly related to traffic rights — is excluded from GATS’ coverage. However, GATS mandates a review by members of this situation. The purpose of the review, which started in early 2000, is to decide whether additional air transport services should be covered by GATS. The review could develop into a negotiation in its own right, resulting in an amendment of GATS itself by adding new services to its coverage and by adding specific commitments on these new services to national schedules.
Intellectual property: protection and enforcement
The WTO’s Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS), negotiated in the 1986-94 Uruguay Round, introduced intellectual property rules into the multilateral trading system for the first time.
Origins: into the rule-based trade system
Ideas and knowledge are an increasingly important part of trade. Most of the value of new medicines and other high technology products lies in the amount of invention, innovation, research, design and testing involved. Films, music recordings, books, computer software and on-line services are bought and sold because of the information and creativity they contain, not usually because of the plastic, metal or paper used to make them. Many products that used to be traded as low-technology goods or commodities now contain a higher proportion of invention and design in their value — for example brandnamed clothing or new varieties of plants.
Creators can be given the right to prevent others from using their inventions, designs or other creations — and to use that right to negotiate payment in return for others using them. These are “intellectual property rights”. They take a number of forms. For example books, paintings and films come under copyright; inventions can be patented; brandnames and product logos can be registered as trademarks; and so on. Governments and parliaments have given creators these rights as an incentive to produce ideas that will benefit society as a whole.
The extent of protection and enforcement of these rights varied widely around the world; and as intellectual property became more important in trade, these differences became a source of tension in international economic relations. New internationally-agreed trade rules for intellectual property rights were seen as a way to introduce more order and predictability, and for disputes to be settled more systematically.
The Uruguay Round achieved that. The WTO’s TRIPS Agreement is an attempt to narrow the gaps in the way these rights are protected around the world, and to bring them under common international rules. It establishes minimum levels of protection that each government has to give to the intellectual property of fellow WTO members. In doing so, it strikes a balance between the long term benefits and possible short term costs to society. Society benefits in the long term when intellectual property protection encourages creation and invention, especially when the period of protection expires and the creations and inventions enter the public domain. Governments are allowed to reduce any short term costs through various exceptions, for example to tackle public health problems. And, when there are trade disputes over intellectual property rights, the WTO’s dispute settlement system is now available.
The agreement covers five broad issues:
how basic principles of the trading system and other international intellectual property agreements should be applied
how to give adequate protection to intellectual property rights
how countries should enforce those rights adequately in their own territories
how to settle disputes on intellectual property between members of the WTO
special transitional arrangements during the period when the new system is being introduced.

Basic principles: national treatment, MFN, and balanced protection
As in GATT and GATS, the starting point of the intellectual property agreement is basic principles. And as in the two other agreements, non-discrimination features prominently: national treatment (treating one’s own nationals and foreigners equally), and most-favoured-nation treatment (equal treatment for nationals of all trading partners in the WTO). National treatment is also a key principle in other intellectual property agreements outside the WTO.
The TRIPS Agreement has an additional important principle: intellectual property protection should contribute to technical innovation and the transfer of technology. Both producers and users should benefit, and economic and social welfare should be enhanced, the agreement says.

How to protect intellectual property: common ground-rules
The second part of the TRIPS agreement looks at different kinds of intellectual property rights and how to protect them. The purpose is to ensure that adequate standards of protection exist in all member countries. Here the starting point is the obligations of the main international agreements of the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) that already existed before the WTO was created:
the Paris Convention for the Protection of Industrial Property (patents, industrial designs, etc)
the Berne Convention for the Protection of Literary and Artistic Works (copyright).
Some areas are not covered by these conventions. In some cases, the standards of protection prescribed were thought inadequate. So the TRIPS agreement adds a significant number of new or higher standards.

Copyright
The TRIPS agreement ensures that computer programs will be protected as literary works under the Berne Convention and outlines how databases should be protected.
It also expands international copyright rules to cover rental rights. Authors of computer programs and producers of sound recordings must have the right to prohibit the commercial rental of their works to the public. A similar exclusive right applies to films where commercial rental has led to widespread copying, affecting copyright-owners’ potential earnings from their films.
The agreement says performers must also have the right to prevent unauthorized recording, reproduction and broadcast of live performances (bootlegging) for no less than 50 years. Producers of sound recordings must have the right to prevent the unauthorized reproduction of recordings for a period of 50 years.

Trademarks
The agreement defines what types of signs must be eligible for protection as trademarks, and what the minimum rights conferred on their owners must be. It says that service marks must be protected in the same way as trademarks used for goods. Marks that have become well-known in a particular country enjoy additional protection.

Geographical indications
A place name is sometimes used to identify a product. This “geographical indication” does not only say where the product was made. More importantly, it identifies the product’s special characteristics, which are the result of the product’s origins.
Well-known examples include “Champagne”, “Scotch”, “Tequila”, and “Roquefort” cheese. Wine and spirits makers are particularly concerned about the use of place-names to identify products, and the TRIPS Agreement contains special provisions for these products. But the issue is also important for other types of goods.
Using the place name when the product was made elsewhere or when it does not have the usual characteristics can mislead consumers, and it can lead to unfair competition. The TRIPS Agreement says countries have to prevent this misuse of place names.
For wines and spirits, the agreement provides higher levels of protection, i.e. even where there is no danger of the public being misled.
Some exceptions are allowed, for example if the name is already protected as a trademark or if it has become a generic term. For example, “cheddar” now refers to a particular type of cheese not necessarily made in Cheddar, in the UK. But any country wanting to make an exception for these reasons must be willing to negotiate with the country which wants to protect the geographical indication in question.
The agreement provides for further negotiations in the WTO to establish a multilateral system of notification and registration of geographical indications for wines. These are now part of the Doha Development Agenda and they include spirits. Also debated in the WTO is whether to negotiate extending this higher level of protection beyond wines and spirits.

Industrial designs
Under the TRIPS Agreement, industrial designs must be protected for at least 10 years. Owners of protected designs must be able to prevent the manufacture, sale or importation of articles bearing or embodying a design which is a copy of the protected design.
Patents
The agreement says patent protection must be available for inventions for at least 20 years. Patent protection must be available for both products and processes, in almost all fields of technology. Governments can refuse to issue a patent for an invention if its commercial exploitation is prohibited for reasons of public order or morality. They can also exclude diagnostic, therapeutic and surgical methods, plants and animals (other than microorganisms), and biological processes for the production of plants or animals (other than microbiological processes).
Plant varieties, however, must be protectable by patents or by a special system (such as the breeder’s rights provided in the conventions of UPOV — the International Union for the Protection of New Varieties of Plants).
The agreement describes the minimum rights that a patent owner must enjoy. But it also allows certain exceptions. A patent owner could abuse his rights, for example by failing to supply the product on the market. To deal with that possibility, the agreement says governments can issue “compulsory licences”, allowing a competitor to produce the product or use the process under licence. But this can only be done under certain conditions aimed at safeguarding the legitimate interests of the patent-holder.
If a patent is issued for a production process, then the rights must extend to the product directly obtained from the process. Under certain conditions alleged infringers may be ordered by a court to prove that they have not used the patented process.
An issue that has arisen recently is how to ensure patent protection for pharmaceutical products does not prevent people in poor countries from having access to medicines — while at the same time maintaining the patent system’s role in providing incentives for research and development into new medicines. Flexibilities such as compulsory licensing are written into the TRIPS Agreement, but some governments were unsure of how these would be interpreted, and how far their right to use them would be respected.
A large part of this was settled when WTO ministers issued a special declaration at the Doha Ministerial Conference in November 2001. They agreed that the TRIPS Agreement does not and should not prevent members from taking measures to protect public health. They underscored countries’ ability to use the flexibilities that are built into the TRIPS Agreement. And they agreed to extend exemptions on pharmaceutical patent protection for least-developed countries until 2016. On one remaining question, they assigned further work to the TRIPS Council — to sort out how to provide extra flexibility, so that countries unable to produce pharmaceuticals domestically can import patented drugs made under compulsory licensing. A waiver providing this flexibility was agreed on 30 August 2003.

Integrated circuits layout designs
The basis for protecting integrated circuit designs (“topographies”) in the TRIPS agreement is the Washington Treaty on Intellectual Property in Respect of Integrated Circuits, which comes under the World Intellectual Property Organization. This was adopted in 1989 but has not yet entered into force. The TRIPS agreement adds a number of provisions: for example, protection must be available for at least 10 years.

Undisclosed information and trade secrets
Trade secrets and other types of “undisclosed information” which have commercial value must be protected against breach of confidence and other acts contrary to honest commercial practices. But reasonable steps must have been taken to keep the information secret. Test data submitted to governments in order to obtain marketing approval for new pharmaceutical or agricultural chemicals must also be protected against unfair commercial use.

Curbing anti-competitive licensing contracts
The owner of a copyright, patent or other form of intellectual property right can issue a licence for someone else to produce or copy the protected trademark, work, invention, design, etc. The agreement recognizes that the terms of a licensing contract could restrict competition or impede technology transfer. It says that under certain conditions, governments have the right to take action to prevent anti-competitive licensing that abuses intellectual property rights. It also says governments must be prepared to consult each other on controlling anti-competitive licensing.

Enforcement: tough but fair
Having intellectual property laws is not enough. They have to be enforced. This is covered in Part 3 of TRIPS. The agreement says governments have to ensure that intellectual property rights can be enforced under their laws, and that the penalties for infringement are tough enough to deter further violations. The procedures must be fair and equitable, and not unnecessarily complicated or costly. They should not entail unreasonable time-limits or unwarranted delays. People involved should be able to ask a court to review an administrative decision or to appeal a lower court’s ruling.
The agreement describes in some detail how enforcement should be handled, including rules for obtaining evidence, provisional measures, injunctions, damages and other penalties. It says courts should have the right, under certain conditions, to order the disposal or destruction of pirated or counterfeit goods. Wilful trademark counterfeiting or copyright piracy on a commercial scale should be criminal offences. Governments should make sure that intellectual property rights owners can receive the assistance of customs authorities to prevent imports of counterfeit and pirated goods.

Technology transfer
Developing countries in particular, see technology transfer as part of the bargain in which they have agreed to protect intellectual property rights. The TRIPS Agreement includes a number of provisions on this. For example, it requires developed countries’ governments to provide incentives for their companies to transfer technology to least-developed countries.

Transition arrangements: 1, 5 or 11 years or more
When the WTO agreements took effect on 1 January 1995, developed countries were given one year to ensure that their laws and practices conform with the TRIPS agreement. Developing countries and (under certain conditions) transition economies were given five years, until 2000. Least-developed countries have 11 years, until 2006 — now extended to 2016 for pharmaceutical patents.
If a developing country did not provide product patent protection in a particular area of technology when the TRIPS Agreement came into force (1 January 1995), it had up to 10 years to introduce the protection. But for pharmaceutical and agricultural chemical products, the country had to accept the filing of patent applications from the beginning of the transitional period, though the patent did not need to be granted until the end of this period. If the government allowed the relevant pharmaceutical or agricultural chemical to be marketed during the transition period, it had to — subject to certain conditions — provide an exclusive marketing right for the product for five years, or until a product patent was granted, whichever was shorter.
Subject to certain exceptions, the general rule is that obligations in the agreement apply to intellectual property rights that existed at the end of a country’s transition period as well as to new ones.
Anti-dumping, subsidies, safeguards: contingencies, etc
Binding tariffs, and applying them equally to all trading partners (most-favoured-nation treatment, or MFN) are key to the smooth flow of trade in goods. The WTO agreements uphold the principles, but they also allow exceptions — in some circumstances. Three of these issues are:
actions taken against dumping (selling at an unfairly low price)
subsidies and special “countervailing” duties to offset the subsidies
emergency measures to limit imports temporarily, designed to “safeguard” domestic industries.
Anti-dumping actions
If a company exports a product at a price lower than the price it normally charges on its own home market, it is said to be “dumping” the product. Is this unfair competition? Opinions differ, but many governments take action against dumping in order to defend their domestic industries. The WTO agreement does not pass judgement. Its focus is on how governments can or cannot react to dumping — it disciplines anti-dumping actions, and it is often called the “Anti-Dumping Agreement”. (This focus only on the reaction to dumping contrasts with the approach of the Subsidies and Countervailing Measures Agreement.)
The legal definitions are more precise, but broadly speaking the WTO agreement allows governments to act against dumping where there is genuine (“material”) injury to the competing domestic industry. In order to do that the government has to be able to show that dumping is taking place, calculate the extent of dumping (how much lower the export price is compared to the exporter’s home market price), and show that the dumping is causing injury or threatening to do so.
GATT (Article 6) allows countries to take action against dumping. The Anti-Dumping Agreement clarifies and expands Article 6, and the two operate together. They allow countries to act in a way that would normally break the GATT principles of binding a tariff and not discriminating between trading partners — typically anti-dumping action means charging extra import duty on the particular product from the particular exporting country in order to bring its price closer to the “normal value” or to remove the injury to domestic industry in the importing country.
There are many different ways of calculating whether a particular product is being dumped heavily or only lightly. The agreement narrows down the range of possible options. It provides three methods to calculate a product’s “normal value”. The main one is based on the price in the exporter’s domestic market. When this cannot be used, two alternatives are available — the price charged by the exporter in another country, or a calculation based on the combination of the exporter’s production costs, other expenses and normal profit margins. And the agreement also specifies how a fair comparison can be made between the export price and what would be a normal price.
Calculating the extent of dumping on a product is not enough. Anti-dumping measures can only be applied if the dumping is hurting the industry in the importing country. Therefore, a detailed investigation has to be conducted according to specified rules first. The investigation must evaluate all relevant economic factors that have a bearing on the state of the industry in question. If the investigation shows dumping is taking place and domestic industry is being hurt, the exporting company can undertake to raise its price to an agreed level in order to avoid anti-dumping import duty.
Detailed procedures are set out on how anti-dumping cases are to be initiated, how the investigations are to be conducted, and the conditions for ensuring that all interested parties are given an opportunity to present evidence. Anti-dumping measures must expire five years after the date of imposition, unless an investigation shows that ending the measure would lead to injury.
Anti-dumping investigations are to end immediately in cases where the authorities determine that the margin of dumping is insignificantly small (defined as less than 2% of the export price of the product). Other conditions are also set. For example, the investigations also have to end if the volume of dumped imports is negligible (i.e. if the volume from one country is less than 3% of total imports of that product — although investigations can proceed if several countries, each supplying less than 3% of the imports, together account for 7% or more of total imports).
The agreement says member countries must inform the Committee on Anti-Dumping Practices about all preliminary and final anti-dumping actions, promptly and in detail. They must also report on all investigations twice a year. When differences arise, members are encouraged to consult each other. They can also use the WTO’s dispute settlement procedure.
Subsidies and countervailing measures
This agreement does two things: it disciplines the use of subsidies, and it regulates the actions countries can take to counter the effects of subsidies. It says a country can use the WTO’s dispute settlement procedure to seek the withdrawal of the subsidy or the removal of its adverse effects. Or the country can launch its own investigation and ultimately charge extra duty (known as “countervailing duty”) on subsidized imports that are found to be hurting domestic producers.
The agreement contains a definition of subsidy. It also introduces the concept of a “specific” subsidy — i.e. a subsidy available only to an enterprise, industry, group of enterprises, or group of industries in the country (or state, etc) that gives the subsidy. The disciplines set out in the agreement only apply to specific subsidies. They can be domestic or export subsidies.
The agreement defines two categories of subsidies: prohibited and actionable. It originally contained a third category: non-actionable subsidies. This category existed for five years, ending on 31 December 1999, and was not extended. The agreement applies to agricultural goods as well as industrial products, except when the subsidies are exempt under the Agriculture Agreement’s “peace clause”, due to expire at the end of 2003.
Prohibited subsidies: subsidies that require recipients to meet certain export targets, or to use domestic goods instead of imported goods. They are prohibited because they are specifically designed to distort international trade, and are therefore likely to hurt other countries’ trade. They can be challenged in the WTO dispute settlement procedure where they are handled under an accelerated timetable. If the dispute settlement procedure confirms that the subsidy is prohibited, it must be withdrawn immediately. Otherwise, the complaining country can take counter measures. If domestic producers are hurt by imports of subsidized products, countervailing duty can be imposed.
Actionable subsidies: in this category the complaining country has to show that the subsidy has an adverse effect on its interests. Otherwise the subsidy is permitted. The agreement defines three types of damage they can cause. One country’s subsidies can hurt a domestic industry in an importing country. They can hurt rival exporters from another country when the two compete in third markets. And domestic subsidies in one country can hurt exporters trying to compete in the subsidizing country’s domestic market. If the Dispute Settlement Body rules that the subsidy does have an adverse effect, the subsidy must be withdrawn or its adverse effect must be removed. Again, if domestic producers are hurt by imports of subsidized products, countervailing duty can be imposed.
Some of the disciplines are similar to those of the Anti-Dumping Agreement. Countervailing duty (the parallel of anti-dumping duty) can only be charged after the importing country has conducted a detailed investigation similar to that required for anti-dumping action. There are detailed rules for deciding whether a product is being subsidized (not always an easy calculation), criteria for determining whether imports of subsidized products are hurting (“causing injury to”) domestic industry, procedures for initiating and conducting investigations, and rules on the implementation and duration (normally five years) of countervailing measures. The subsidized exporter can also agree to raise its export prices as an alternative to its exports being charged countervailing duty.
Subsidies may play an important role in developing countries and in the transformation of centrally-planned economies to market economies. Least-developed countries and developing countries with less than $1,000 per capita GNP are exempted from disciplines on prohibited export subsidies. Other developing countries are given until 2003 to get rid of their export subsidies. Least-developed countries must eliminate import-substitution subsidies (i.e. subsidies designed to help domestic production and avoid importing) by 2003 — for other developing countries the deadline was 2000. Developing countries also receive preferential treatment if their exports are subject to countervailing duty investigations. For transition economies, prohibited subsidies had to be phased out by 2002.
Safeguards: emergency protection from imports
A WTO member may restrict imports of a product temporarily (take “safeguard” actions) if its domestic industry is injured or threatened with injury caused by a surge in imports. Here, the injury has to be serious. Safeguard measures were always available under GATT (Article 19). However, they were infrequently used, some governments preferring to protect their domestic industries through “grey area” measures — using bilateral negotiations outside GATT’s auspices, they persuaded exporting countries to restrain exports “voluntarily” or to agree to other means of sharing markets. Agreements of this kind were reached for a wide range of products: automobiles, steel, and semiconductors, for example.
The WTO agreement broke new ground. It prohibits “grey-area” measures, and it sets time limits (a “sunset clause”) on all safeguard actions. The agreement says members must not seek, take or maintain any voluntary export restraints, orderly marketing arrangements or any other similar measures on the export or the import side. The bilateral measures that were not modified to conform with the agreement were phased out at the end of 1998. Countries were allowed to keep one of these measures an extra year (until the end of 1999), but only the European Union — for restrictions on imports of cars from Japan — made use of this provision.
An import “surge” justifying safeguard action can be a real increase in imports (an absolute increase); or it can be an increase in the imports’ share of a shrinking market, even if the import quantity has not increased (relative increase).
Industries or companies may request safeguard action by their government. The WTO agreement sets out requirements for safeguard investigations by national authorities. The emphasis is on transparency and on following established rules and practices — avoiding arbitrary methods. The authorities conducting investigations have to announce publicly when hearings are to take place and provide other appropriate means for interested parties to present evidence. The evidence must include arguments on whether a measure is in the public interest.
The agreement sets out criteria for assessing whether “serious injury” is being caused or threatened, and the factors which must be considered in determining the impact of imports on the domestic industry. When imposed, a safeguard measure should be applied only to the extent necessary to prevent or remedy serious injury and to help the industry concerned to adjust. Where quantitative restrictions (quotas) are imposed, they normally should not reduce the quantities of imports below the annual average for the last three representative years for which statistics are available, unless clear justification is given that a different level is necessary to prevent or remedy serious injury.
In principle, safeguard measures cannot be targeted at imports from a particular country. However, the agreement does describe how quotas can be allocated among supplying countries, including in the exceptional circumstance where imports from certain countries have increased disproportionately quickly. A safeguard measure should not last more than four years, although this can be extended up to eight years, subject to a determination by competent national authorities that the measure is needed and that there is evidence the industry is adjusting. Measures imposed for more than a year must be progressively liberalized.
When a country restricts imports in order to safeguard its domestic producers, in principle it must give something in return. The agreement says the exporting country (or exporting countries) can seek compensation through consultations. If no agreement is reached the exporting country can retaliate by taking equivalent action — for instance, it can raise tariffs on exports from the country that is enforcing the safeguard measure. In some circumstances, the exporting country has to wait for three years after the safeguard measure was introduced before it can retaliate in this way — i.e. if the measure conforms with the provisions of the agreement and if it is taken as a result of an increase in the quantity of imports from the exporting country.
To some extent developing countries’ exports are shielded from safeguard actions. An importing country can only apply a safeguard measure to a product from a developing country if the developing country is supplying more than 3% of the imports of that product, or if developing country members with less than 3% import share collectively account for more than 9% of total imports of the product concerned.
The WTO’s Safeguards Committee oversees the operation of the agreement and is responsible for the surveillance of members’ commitments. Governments have to report each phase of a safeguard investigation and related decision-making, and the committee reviews these reports.
DEVELOPING COUNTRIES

About two thirds of the WTO’s around 150 members are developing countries. They play an increasingly important and active role in the WTO because of their numbers, because they are becoming more important in the global economy, and because they increasingly look to trade as a vital tool in their development efforts. Developing countries are a highly diverse group often with very different views and concerns. The WTO deals with the special needs of developing countries in three ways: the WTO agreements contain special provisions on developing countries
the Committee on Trade and Development is the main body focusing on work in this area in the WTO, with some others dealing with specific topics such as trade and debt, and technology transfer
the WTO Secretariat provides technical assistance (mainly training of various kinds) for developing countries.

In the agreements:
The WTO agreements include numerous provisions giving developing and least-developed countries special rights or extra leniency — “special and differential treatment”. Among these are provisions that allow developed countries to treat developing countries more favourably than other WTO members.
The General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT, which deals with trade in goods) has a special section (Part 4) on Trade and Development which includes provisions on the concept of non-reciprocity in trade negotiations between developed and developing countries — when developed countries grant trade concessions to developing countries they should not expect the developing countries to make matching offers in return.
Both GATT and the General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS) allow developing countries some preferential treatment.
Other measures concerning developing countries in the WTO agreements include:
extra time for developing countries to fulfil their commitments (in many of the WTO agreements)
provisions designed to increase developing countries’ trading opportunities through greater market access (e.g. in textiles, services, technical barriers to trade)
provisions requiring WTO members to safeguard the interests of developing countries when adopting some domestic or international measures (e.g. in anti-dumping, safeguards, technical barriers to trade)
provisions for various means of helping developing countries (e.g. to deal with commitments on animal and plant health standards, technical standards, and in strengthening their domestic telecommunications sectors).

Legal assistance: a Secretariat service
The WTO Secretariat has special legal advisers for assisting developing countries in any WTO dispute and for giving them legal counsel. The service is offered by the WTO’s Training and Technical Cooperation Institute. Developing countries regularly make use of it.
Furthermore, in 2001, 32 WTO governments set up an Advisory Centre on WTO law. Its members consist of countries contributing to the funding, and those receiving legal advice. All least-developed countries are automatically eligible for advice. Other developing countries and transition economies have to be fee-paying members in order to receive advice.

Least-developed countries: special focus
The least-developed countries receive extra attention in the WTO. All the WTO agreements recognize that they must benefit from the greatest possible flexibility, and better-off members must make extra efforts to lower import barriers on least-developed countries’ exports.
Since the Uruguay Round agreements were signed in 1994, several decisions in favour of least-developed countries have been taken.
Meeting in Singapore in 1996, WTO ministers agreed on a “Plan of Action for Least-Developed Countries”. This included technical assistance to enable them to participate better in the multilateral system and a pledge from developed countries to improved market access for least-developed countries’ products.
A year later, in October 1997, six international organizations — the International Monetary Fund, the International Trade Centre, the United Nations Conference for Trade and Development, the United Nations Development Programme, the World Bank and the WTO — launched the “Integrated Framework”, a joint technical assistance programme exclusively for least-developed countries.
In 2002, the WTO adopted a work programme for least-developed countries. It contains several broad elements: improved market access; more technical assistance; support for agencies working on the diversification of least-developed countries’ economies; help in following the work of the WTO; and a speedier membership process for least-developed countries negotiating to join the WTO.
At the same time, more and more member governments have unilaterally scrapped import duties and import quotas on all exports from least-developed countries.

Geneva:
The WTO’s official business takes place mainly in Geneva. So do the unofficial contacts that can be equally important. But having a permanent office of representatives in Geneva can be expensive. Only about one third of the 30 or so least-developed countries in the WTO have permanent offices in Geneva, and they cover all United Nations activities as well as the WTO.
As a result of the negotiations to locate the WTO headquarters in Geneva, the Swiss government has agreed to provide subsidized office space for delegations from least-developed countries.
A number of WTO members also provide financial support for ministers and accompanying officials from least-developed countries to help them attend WTO ministerial conferences.

Members and Observers
151 members on 27 July 2007 (with dates of membership).
Click any member to see key information on trade statistics, WTO commitments, disputes, trade policy reviews, and notifications
Albania 8 September 2000
Angola 23 November 1996
Antigua and Barbuda 1 January 1995
Argentina 1 January 1995
Armenia 5 February 2003
Australia 1 January 1995
Austria 1 January 1995
Bahrain, Kingdom of 1 January 1995
Bangladesh 1 January 1995
Barbados 1 January 1995
Belgium 1 January 1995
Belize 1 January 1995
Benin 22 February 1996
Bolivia 12 September 1995
Botswana 31 May 1995
Brazil 1 January 1995
Brunei Darussalam 1 January 1995
Bulgaria 1 December 1996
Burkina Faso 3 June 1995
Burundi 23 July 1995
Cambodia 13 October 2004
Cameroon 13 December 1995
Canada 1 January 1995
Central African Republic 31 May 1995
Chad 19 October 1996
Chile 1 January 1995
China 11 December 2001
Colombia 30 April 1995
Congo 27 March 1997
Costa Rica 1 January 1995
Côte d'Ivoire 1 January 1995
Croatia 30 November 2000
Cuba 20 April 1995
Cyprus 30 July 1995
Czech Republic 1 January 1995
Democratic Republic of the Congo 1 January 1997
Denmark 1 January 1995
Djibouti 31 May 1995
Dominica 1 January 1995
Dominican Republic 9 March 1995
Ecuador 21 January 1996
Egypt 30 June 1995
El Salvador 7 May 1995
Estonia 13 November 1999
European Communities 1 January 1995
Fiji 14 January 1996
Finland 1 January 1995
Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) 4 April 2003
France 1 January 1995
Gabon 1 January 1995
The Gambia 23 October 1996
Georgia 14 June 2000
Germany 1 January 1995
Ghana 1 January 1995
Greece 1 January 1995
Grenada 22 February 1996
Guatemala 21 July 1995
Guinea 25 October 1995
Guinea Bissau 31 May 1995
Guyana 1 January 1995
Haiti 30 January 1996
Honduras 1 January 1995
Hong Kong, China 1 January 1995
Hungary 1 January 1995
Iceland 1 January 1995
India 1 January 1995
Indonesia 1 January 1995
Ireland 1 January 1995
Israel 21 April 1995
Italy 1 January 1995
Jamaica 9 March 1995
Japan 1 January 1995
Jordan 11 April 2000
Kenya 1 January 1995
Korea, Republic of 1 January 1995
Kuwait 1 January 1995
Kyrgyz Republic 20 December 1998
Latvia 10 February 1999
Lesotho 31 May 1995
Liechtenstein 1 September 1995
Lithuania 31 May 2001
Luxembourg 1 January 1995
Macao, China 1 January 1995
Madagascar 17 November 1995
Malawi 31 May 1995
Malaysia 1 January 1995
Maldives 31 May 1995
Mali 31 May 1995
Malta 1 January 1995
Mauritania 31 May 1995
Mauritius 1 January 1995
Mexico 1 January 1995
Moldova 26 July 2001
Mongolia 29 January 1997
Morocco 1 January 1995
Mozambique 26 August 1995
Myanmar 1 January 1995
Namibia 1 January 1995
Nepal 23 April 2004
Netherlands — For the Kingdom in Europe and for the Netherlands Antilles 1 January 1995
New Zealand 1 January 1995
Nicaragua 3 September 1995
Niger 13 December 1996
Nigeria 1 January 1995
Norway 1 January 1995
Oman 9 November 2000
Pakistan 1 January 1995
Panama 6 September 1997
Papua New Guinea 9 June 1996
Paraguay 1 January 1995
Peru 1 January 1995
Philippines 1 January 1995
Poland 1 July 1995
Portugal 1 January 1995
Qatar 13 January 1996
Romania 1 January 1995
Rwanda 22 May 1996
Saint Kitts and Nevis 21 February 1996
Saint Lucia 1 January 1995
Saint Vincent & the Grenadines 1 January 1995
Saudi Arabia 11 December 2005
Senegal 1 January 1995
Sierra Leone 23 July 1995
Singapore 1 January 1995
Slovak Republic 1 January 1995
Slovenia 30 July 1995
Solomon Islands 26 July 1996
South Africa 1 January 1995
Spain 1 January 1995
Sri Lanka 1 January 1995
Suriname 1 January 1995
Swaziland 1 January 1995
Sweden 1 January 1995
Switzerland 1 July 1995
Chinese Taipei 1 January 2002
Tanzania 1 January 1995
Thailand 1 January 1995
Togo 31 May 1995
Tonga 27 July 2007
Trinidad and Tobago 1 March 1995
Tunisia 29 March 1995
Turkey 26 March 1995
Uganda 1 January 1995
United Arab Emirates 10 April 1996
United Kingdom 1 January 1995
United States of America 1 January 1995
Uruguay 1 January 1995
Venezuela (Bolivarian Republic of) 1 January 1995
Viet Nam 11 January 2007
Zambia 1 January 1995
Zimbabwe 5 March 1995

Observer governments
Afghanistan
Algeria
Andorra
Azerbaijan
Bahamas
Belarus
Bhutan
Bosnia and Herzegovina
Cape Verde
Comoros
Equatorial Guinea
Ethiopia
Holy See (Vatican)
Iran
Iraq
Kazakhstan
Lao People's Democratic Republic
Lebanese Republic
Libya
Montenegro
Russian Federation
Samoa
Sao Tomé and Principe
Serbia
Seychelles
Sudan
Tajikistan
Ukraine
Uzbekistan
Vanuatu
Yemen
Meetings of Ministers
Meetings of Ministers are held at least once every two years. At these meetings, decisions are taken that are legally binding on countries, and negotiations take place on a variety of different issues.
The Sixth WTO Ministerial Conference was held in Hong Kong, China, 13–18 December 2005.the 5th round of WTO trade talks will take place in Cancun, Mexico from 10-14 September 2003. The first four such meetings were held in Singapore (1996), Geneva (1998), Seattle (1999), and Doha (2001).
Hi dear, thanks for your contribution and i am really glad to see that you shared such a nice report on WTO. BTW, i am also adding some more detailed information on WTO.
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