HISTORY OF THE MULTILATERAL TRADING SYSTEM
The texts signed in Marrakesh on that day were the result of the 1986-94 Uruguay Round negotiations, an unprecedented endeavour in international trade which produced more than 60 agreements and decisions totalling 550 pages - making it one of the largest treaties ever signed. The signing took place at a meeting of trade ministers to the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) and led to the transformation of the GATT into the WTO.
The WTO’s creation on 1 January 1995 marked the biggest reform of international trade since after the Second World War. It also brought to reality — in an updated form — the failed attempt in 1948 to create an International Trade Organization. Today the WTO has 164 members accounting for 98% of world trade.
"The agreements you will sign here this week mean opportunities to expand trade, economic growth and employment," declared Peter Sutherland, the last GATT Director-General and the WTO's first Director-General, at the opening of the Marrakesh meeting. "They mean opportunities to promote sustainable development. And they also mean an opportunity – the most significant one we have had for fifty years – to build a new basis for global economic cooperation." His full speech is available here.
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