The Multilateral Trading System:

50 years of achievement

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Slide 15

One signature per country covering 23,000 pages

The delay allowed participants to develop a clearer view of how world trade could be reformed. The final package was 23,000 pages long, the bulk being individual countries’ commitments to lower trade barriers on an immense range of goods and services. At the signing ceremony, the agreement covered a large table.

The most important result was the creation of the World Trade Organization, almost half a century after the failed attempt to create an International Trade Organization (slide 2). And with the WTO’s creation, the multilateral rules were expanded to cover new areas of trade.

GATT had only dealt with trade in goods. It was to be replaced on 1 January 1995 by the the WTO. But the General Agreement continued to exist in revised form alongside new rules for services and intellectual property.

The package was important in one other respect. It avoided a fundamental weakness of the Tokyo Round - all WTO members have signed on to all the WTO’s agreements with a single signature, except for two less important “codes” (now known as “plurilateral” agreements).

In the picture Thai Deputy Prime Minister Supachai Panitchpakdi signs in the presence of two other Thai ministers, GATT Director-General Peter Sutherland (second from right), and officials.

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