Looking Back: Accomplishments of the Uruguay Round
Despite farmers' protests in Paris, Tokyo, and Seoul, the disappointments of Hollywood on one hand and the grandiose predictions of a multi-trillion-dollar boost to the global economy on another, the world continued to turn as usual following conclusion Dec. 15 of the Uruguay Round of trade liberalization negotiations.
But the accord reached by 117 countries after seven years of talks under the auspices of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT), will change the world as it takes effect in January 1995. It will accelerate globalization of the world economy and will bring more countries and regions into a more open trading system.
Following are some of the key areas: Industrial markets
The Uruguay Round's goal of cutting tariffs on industrial products by one-third was surpassed. Average tariff levels will fall from nearly 7 percent to about 4 percent. Principal industrialized traders will drop duties altogether on more than a third of their imports, including construction, farm and medical equipment, furniture, wood, and paper. For the first time many developing countries made tariff commitments on industrial products. The agreement should boost markets for everything from cars to computers - improving job prospects in those sectors - and reduce prices. Services
Results in the services sector - banking and other financial services, insurance, telecommunications, tourism, air and maritime transport, the entertainment industry, accounting, construction - were less ambitious than originally foreseen, with telecommunications dropping out altogether. But the big step was putting services under international agreement for the first time.
The United States and the European Union failed to resolve their differences on entertainment products, which means a continued battle over television, films, music, video and satellite sales. In the short term the US will limit access to its banking and financial markets to countries that make equivalent market-openings. Negotiations in 1995 will reveal whether Japan is ready to open its lucrative financial services market.
Nevertheless, services, which already account for a fifth of the world economy, should feel a boost. Intellectual property
The accord includes the strongest and most comprehensive rules ever for protecting patents, copyright, trade marks, recording artists, microchip and other industrial designs, and trade secrets. Included are protection standards plus enforcement requirements.
The accord is a boon to IBM, which says it alone loses $1 billion in annual sales to product pirates.
Industries should feel freer to invest in developing countries, although some critics say it will also mean higher prices for poor countries. Agriculture
The accord brings trade in farm products under the GATT for the first time. The world's most efficient producers, and consumers in protected markets, should benefit by the turn of the century. The high farm subsidizers - chief among them the EU and the US - must chop subsidized exports by 36 percent in value over six years. Japan and South Korea will gradually open their closed rice markets a little - Japan to 8 percent by 2007.
The deal translates into 50 million tons less subsidized wheat on the world market by 2000, which means non- or low-subsidizing countries like Australia, Canada, and Argentina, will have better access. Consumers in Japan - where rice prices are five times world market levels - will see price drops. Subsidy reductions, however, will increase world food prices and hit developing countries dependent on food imports. Textiles and clothing
The accord puts the textiles sector back under multilateral trade rules, after a 20-year hiatus during which bilateral accords reigned under the Multi-Fiber Agreement regime. Most tariffs and quotas in developed countries will be eliminated over the decade. Developing countries will take a growing share of textiles and clothing trade, worth $250 billion in 1992.
Consumers should enjoy lower prices, while developed-world manufacturers will continue to feel the heat. Tougher, broader trade rules
Observers say an agreement on stronger, clearer, and less arbitrary trading rules may do more to boost world trade than the accord's other sections combined. Among other provisions, the accord includes new rules for settling dumping disputes. The new rules should reduce arbitrary anti-dumping decisions that protect inefficient domestic industries.
Finally, the host of new trade regulations will be administered and adjudicated not by GATT - which since its creation in 1947 has been a provisional body to oversee successive trade accords - but by the newly created World Trade Organization.