Conference held on proposed formation of an International Trade Organization (ITO) as a specialized agency of the United Nations. One goal of the conference was to avoid the disastrous protectionist trade policies of the 1920s that culminated in the Smoot-Hawley Tariff Act of 1930, all of which reduced world trade and worsened the Great Depression. However, plans for the ITO were abandoned when it became clear that it would not be ratified. A part of the ITO charter was salvaged as the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT). 1948
GATT officially established by 23 countries. The organization's goal is to liberalize world trade by eliminating tariffs - taxes levied on imported goods - and other protectionist barriers.
GATT today consists of 38 articles of agreement that lay down the basic principles of trade. A key one is that nations shall conduct trade with each other on a nondiscriminatory basis. When the United States Congress writes trade laws, it has to ensure that they conform with these articles. The same is true for other member countries. 1950s
The first of seven rounds to be convened by GATT participants to reduce trade barriers. The next two were the Torquay Round and the Geneva Round. 1960-61
This was called partially in response to the formation of the European Economic Community. 1963-67
Faced with the prospect of Britain joining the EEC, tariff reductions on a comprehensive basis (rather than product-by-product) were adopted. Pacts were made on antidumping measures (the sale of goods below cost) and grains. 1973-79
The round was called at a time of monetary instability and growing problems of nontariff barriers, such as quotas. The result was tariff and nontariff reductions. 1986
The goal of the present round is to reduce tariffs by one-third. Tariffs in the main industrial countries now average 5 percent. This round was called in response to weak enforcement of GATT rules; gaps in GATT coverage; growing bilateral and unilateral action; emergence of newly industrialized economies; and the need to include and reform agricultural trade.
New subjects under discussion: trade in services, intellectual property, and investments.
Two deadlines to close this round have already been missed. The current deadline for the 112-member organization is Dec. 15.