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General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT)


The General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) is an international trade treaty established in 1947, aimed at reducing trade barriers, such as tariffs and quotas, and promoting free trade among member countries. This multilateral agreement provided a platform for regular negotiations and dispute resolution among participating nations. GATT was replaced by the World Trade Organization (WTO) in 1995, which expanded upon its scope and functions, while maintaining its foundational principles.


The phonetics of the keyword “General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT)” can be transcribed in the International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA) as:/ˈʤɛnərəl əˈgrimənt ɑn ˈtærɪfs ənd treɪd (ˈgæt)/

Key Takeaways

  1. The General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) was an international trade agreement established in 1947 with the objective of liberalizing global trade by reducing trade barriers such as tariffs, quotas, and subsidies.
  2. GATT functioned as a framework for multiple rounds of trade negotiations between member countries. Over its history, there were several successful rounds, significantly reducing tariffs and liberalizing international trade, including the Kennedy Round (1964-1967), the Tokyo Round (1973-1979), and the Uruguay Round (1986-1994).
  3. In 1995, GATT was replaced by the World Trade Organization (WTO), which expanded on GATT’s framework by adding new rules governing services, intellectual property, and dispute resolution. WTO also serves as a forum for continued trade negotiations and settling trade disputes among its member countries.


The General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) is important because it played a crucial role in promoting international trade by reducing trade barriers such as tariffs, quotas, and subsidies among its member countries. Established in 1947, GATT sought to create a fair, transparent, and rules-based trading system, fostering global economic growth and development. As a precursor to the World Trade Organization (WTO), GATT facilitated several negotiating rounds that ultimately resulted in significant reductions in global tariffs and stronger trade policies. Through its principles of non-discrimination, reciprocity, and transparency, GATT contributed to the expansion of international trade, integration of economies, and the overall success of globalization.


The General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) was established with the primary purpose of promoting international trade by reducing trade barriers, such as tariffs and import quotas. It sought to offer a stable platform that encouraged fair competition among participating nations while aiming to resolve trade disputes in a cooperative and multilateral manner. Originally established in 1947, GATT made significant strides in liberalizing trade among nations by encouraging them to reduce tariffs and other barriers to import and export of goods and services. The framework of GATT was instrumental in facilitating global economic growth and development in the post-World War II era. Moreover, GATT provided a crucial foundation for an organized and rules-based international trade system, ensuring that commercial interactions were governed by a set of mutually agreed-upon principles. These principles included non-discrimination, where countries committed to treating their trading partners equitably, and transparency, which required parties to disclose their trade regulations and practices. A vital component of GATT’s functionality involved periodic rounds of negotiations, which allowed member nations to reassess and update their trade commitments and policies. Ultimately, this structure has shaped the global trade landscape, paving the way for the establishment of the World Trade Organization (WTO) in 1995, which has since replaced GATT as the principal institution governing international trade.


1. The Kennedy Round (1964-1967): The Kennedy Round was the sixth round of GATT negotiations, which aimed at reducing global tariff rates and promoting trade. This round led to the successful negotiation of tariff reductions among the participating countries. The average tariff rate on industrial products was reduced from 15% to an average of 10%. This significantly expanded trade among GATT member countries, promoting economic growth and prosperity. 2. The Uruguay Round (1986-1994): The Uruguay Round was one of the most critical and comprehensive series of negotiations in the history of GATT. This round led to the creation of the World Trade Organization (WTO) in 1995, which replaced GATT as the primary international body overseeing global trade agreements. The Uruguay Round further lowered tariff barriers and expanded GATT’s coverage to include services, intellectual property, and agriculture. This comprehensive trade agreement stimulated international trade and allowed for better trade dispute resolution mechanisms for the member countries. 3. The GATT and developing nations: GATT played a significant role in driving the economic growth of many developing nations by giving them access to global markets. Economic liberalization in countries like South Korea, Taiwan, and Singapore during the 1960s and 70s was made possible, in part, due to membership in GATT. These countries focused on export-oriented policies and made significant progress in industrialization and economic growth by leveraging the market access and reduced tariffs provided by GATT agreements. Overall, the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade played a central role in promoting international trade, economic growth, and development by reducing trade barriers and fostering cooperation among member nations.

Frequently Asked Questions(FAQ)

What is the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT)?
The General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) is an international trade treaty aimed at promoting international commerce through the reduction of trade barriers, including tariffs and import quotas. Established in 1947, GATT served as a framework for international trade negotiations and a forum for discussing trade issues until it was replaced by the World Trade Organization (WTO) in 1995.
What was the primary goal of GATT?
The main goal of GATT was to encourage economic growth and development through the promotion of free trade among nations. This was achieved by reducing trade barriers and eliminating discriminatory treatment in international commerce.
How did GATT work?
GATT functioned through a series of negotiation rounds, where member countries convened to discuss, negotiate, and make commitments to lower tariffs and other trade barriers. The negotiation rounds aimed to achieve a balance of concessions among all members, leading to a gradual liberalization of international trade.
How many negotiation rounds occurred under GATT?
GATT held a total of eight negotiation rounds, with the first round taking place in 1947 and the final Uruguay Round concluding in 1994. Each round had specific issues and objectives addressed, leading to significant reductions in tariffs and the establishment of rules for global trade.
What were some of the major achievements of GATT?
GATT achieved significant reductions in global tariffs on industrial goods, facilitated the liberalization of trade in services, established rules on intellectual property rights, and increased transparency in trade policies. These achievements contributed to a substantial growth in international trade and helped set the stage for the establishment of the World Trade Organization (WTO).
Why was GATT replaced by the World Trade Organization (WTO)?
The Uruguay Round, which concluded in 1994, led to the establishment of the WTO, which subsumed and extended the functions of GATT. The WTO was established to address new and emerging trade issues, expand the scope of trade to include services and intellectual property, and provide a more comprehensive and robust institutional framework for global trade negotiations.
What is the relationship between GATT and the WTO?
GATT was a precursor to the WTO and provided the foundational framework for global trade negotiations. When the WTO was established in 1995, it absorbed GATT, and its provisions on tariffs and trade in goods became part of the new organization’s rules. The WTO continues to operate based on the principles set forth by GATT but has expanded its scope to cover areas like trade in services, intellectual property rights, and dispute resolution.

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