Category: WTO Sub-category: World Trade Organisation
Document type: article

GATT and the Goods Council 
The General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (typically abbreviated GATT) was the outcome of the failure of negotiating governments to create the International Trade Organization (ITO). The Bretton Woods Conference had introduced the idea for an organization to regulate trade as part of a larger plan for economic recovery after World War II. As governments negotiated the ITO, 15 negotiating states began parallel negotiations for the GATT as a way to attain early tariff reductions. Once the ITO failed in 1950, only the GATT agreement was left. The GATT's main objective was the reduction of barriers to international trade. This was achieved through the reduction of tariff barriers, quantitative restrictions and subsidies on trade through a series of agreements. The GATT was a treaty, not an organization. The functions of the GATT were taken over by the World Trade Organization which was established during the final round of negotiations in early 1990s. 
The history of the GATT can be divided into three phases: the first, from 1947 until the Torquay Round, largely concerned which commodities would be covered by the agreement and freezing existing tariff levels. A second phase, encompassing three rounds, from 1959 to 1979, focused on reducing tariffs. The third phase, consisting only of the Uruguay Round from 1986 to 1994, extended the agreement fully to new areas such as intellectual property, services, capital, and agriculture. Out of this round the WTO was born. 
GATT signatories occasionally negotiated new trade agreements that all countries would enter into. Each set of agreements was called around. In general, each agreement bound members to reduce certain tariffs. Usually this would include many special-case treatments of individual products, with exceptions or modifications for each country.

GATT and WTO trade round





Subjects covered



April 1947

7 months



Signing of GATT, 45,000 tariff concessions affecting $10 billion of trade


April 1949

5 months