General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade

The General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) is a legal agreement between many countries, whose overall purpose was to promote international trade by reducing or eliminating trade barriers such as tariffs or quotas. According to its preamble, its purpose was the "substantial reduction of tariffs and other trade barriers and the elimination of preferences, on a reciprocal and mutually advantageous basis." It was first discussed during the United Nations Conference on Trade and Employment and was the outcome of the failure of negotiating governments to create the International Trade Organization (ITO). GATT was signed by 23 nations in Geneva on 30 October 1947, and took effect on 1 January 1948. It remained in effect until the signature by 123 nations in Marrakesh on 14 April 1994, of the Uruguay Round Agreements, which established the World Trade Organization (WTO) on 1 January 1995. The WTO is a successor to GATT, and the original GATT text (GATT 1947) is still in effect under the WTO framework, subject to the modifications of GATT 1994. GATT, and its successor WTO, have successfully reduced tariffs. The average tariff levels for the major GATT participants were about 22% in 1947, but were 5% after the Uruguay Round in 1999. Experts attribute part of these tariff changes to GATT and the WTO.


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