During great depression of 1930s the international trade was badly affected and various countries imposed import restriction for safeguarding their economies. This resulted in a sharp decline in the world trade in 1945. USA put forward many proposals for extending international trade and employment. On October 30, 1947, 23 countries at Geneva, signed an agreement related to tariffs imposed on trade.
This agreement is known as General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT). It came into force on January 1, 1948. Initially GATT was established in the form of a temporary arrangement but later on it took the shape of a permanent agreement. GATT’s headquarter was in Geneva. On December 12, 1995, GATT was abolished and replaced by World Trade Organisation (WTO), which came into existence on January 1, 1995.
The WTO was established on January 1, 1995. The WTO is the embodiment of the Uruguay Round results and the successor to GATT. 76 Governments became members of the WTO on its first day. As of September 1999, there are 134 members of the WTO and 34 countries have an observer status. There is a waiting list of 31 members. They account for more than 90 percent of the world trade.
Functions of WTO:
i) The WTO shall facilitate the implementation, administration and operation, and further the objectives of the Multilateral Trade Agreements, and shall also provide the framework for the implementation, administration and operation of Plurilateral Trade Agreements.
ii) The WTO shall provide the forum for negotiations among its members concerning their multilateral trade relations in matters dealt with under the Agreements.
iii) The WTO shall administer the ‘Understanding on Rules and Procedures Governing the Settlement of Disputes’.
iv) The WTO shall administer the ‘Trade Review Mechanism’.
v) With a view to achieve greater coherence in global economic policy making, the WTO shall co-operate, as appropriate, with the IMF and IBRD and its affiliated agencies.
The General Council will serve four main functions:
i) To supervise on a regular basis the operation of the revised agreements and ministerial declarations relating to: Goods, services, and TRIPs.
ii) To act as a Dispute Settlement Body,
iii) To serve as a Trade Review Mechanism,
iv) To establish Goods Council, Services Council and TRIPs Council, as subsidiary bodies.
The WTO is a more powerful body with enlarged functions than the GATT and is envisaged to play a major role in the world economic affairs. To become a member of the WTO, a country must completely accept the results of the Uruguay Round.