What The Heck Is GATT?


GATT started as a legal agreement between a collection of countries, with the primary purpose of promoting international trade by diminishing or eliminating trade barriers such as quotas or tariffs. The General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) came into force at the beginning of 1948, with the stated purpose of “substantial reduction of tariffs and other trade barriers and the elimination of preferences, on a reciprocal and mutually advantageous basis”. Therefore, the desired result would be promoting international trade between the countries that agree on the GATT.

Initial discussions surrounding this general agreement started during the United Nations Conference on Trade and Employment. After the GATT was signed in 1947 by 23 nations, a month later the Havana Conference begun to work on establishing a global trade institution by the name International Trade Organization (ITO). Although the ITO charter was agreed in March 1948, it could not be materialized due to the U.S. decision not to seek Congressional ratification.  The GATT Agreement came into effect on 1 January 1948. The GATT remained in place until 1994, when 123 nations signed to establish the World Trade Organisation, or the WTO for short. The WTO officially kicked off on 1 January 1995, a mere 47 years after the GATT was originally implemented.

The WTO acts as the successor to the GATT, with its framework based on the GATT, as the original text from the agreement in 1947 is still in effect, which was modified from time to time. Also, the first major overhaul of the GATT Agreement was as a result of the 1986-1994 Uruguay Round of trade negotiations.  However, nations that were not included in the original agreement had to meet the minimum conditions that were set forth by the WTO to apply and accede a position in the organisation. Currently, there is a total of 164 members that are part of the WTO.

BlueBlox is your trade compliance consultancy house that can enable your business to do international trade. We offer our services for trade compliance to work towards a mutually beneficial outcome for both parties and can assist in government negotiations for countries in Africa, Eastern Europe, and the Middle East.

For more info on how we can assist your business, please contact us with any enquiries.