What Is the General Agreement On Tariffs And Trade?

The General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT), formed in 1948 after World War II, was intended to boost economic recovery after the war. The main objective of GATT was to expand international trade by eliminating or reducing quotas, tariffs, and subsidies while preserving significant regulations.

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General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT)

The GATT Explained

GATT became law Jan. 1, 1948 with the signing of 23 countries. Since that beginning, GATT has been refined and eventually led to the creation of the World Trade Organization (WTO) in January 1995.

The Council for Trade in Goods (Goods Council) is responsible for the GATT and consists of representatives from all WTO member countries. As of March 2019, the council chair is Canadian Ambassador Stephen de Boer. The council has 10 committees that address subjects including market access, agriculture, subsidies, and anti-dumping measures.

  • The General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) was formed in 1948 after World War II.
  • GATT became law on Jan. 1, 1948, with the signing by 23 countries.
  • The GATT held eight rounds in total from April 1947 to September 1986, each with significant achievements and outcomes.

Real World Example

The GATT held eight rounds of meeting between April 1947 and September 1986. Each of the conferences had significant achievements and outcomes.

  • The first meeting was in Geneva, Switzerland and included 23 countries. The focus in this opening conference was on tariffs. The members established tax concessions touching over US$10 billion of trade around the globe. 
  • The second series of meetings began in April 1949 and were held in Annecy, France. Again, tariffs were the primary topic. Thirteen countries were at the second meeting, and the accomplished an additional 5,000 tax concessions reducing tariffs.
  • In April 1949, the third series of GATT meetings occurred in Torquay, England. This time 38 countries were involved, and almost 9,000 tariff concessions passed and reduced tax levels by as much as 25%.
  • Japan saw involvement in GATT meetings for the first time in 1956 at the fourth meeting along with 25 other countries. The meeting was in Geneva, Switzerland and again the committee reduced worldwide tariffs by US$2.5 billion.

This series of meeting and reduced tariff would continue. By 1964 the GATT began to work toward curbing predatory pricing policies. These policies are known as dumping. As the years have passed, the countries have continued to attack global issues including addressing agriculture disputes and working to protect intellectual property. The eighth round of meetings in 1986 led to the creation of the World Trade Organization.