Working Paper
From GATT to WTO and Beyond

The object of this paper is to analyse the evolution of the international trading system from its inception as GATT in 1947 to its latest incarnation as WTO, comprising the complex array of agreements forming its substance and mandate. The study focuses on the adequacy or the inadequacy of the system as it evolved and functioned in an environment of changing international economic and political reality. The study also attempts to grapple with the more difficult question of looking at the future prospects of the system, the strains that it will need to face and the subsequent changes that are called for in its approach, content and functioning. The paper consists of six parts. The first parts deals with the birth and features of GATT. It views GATT in its historical context and refers to the demise of the Havana Charter, the attenuation of multilateralism and the emphasis on European consolidation in the context of the cold war. The second part provides a synopsis of GATT's functioning during the first three decades of its existence (1950-79). The third part deals with the period 1980 through 1994. The fourth part devotes itself to the analysis of the paradigm shift brought about by WTO. In this part, the new issues (TRIMS, TRIPS and services) as well as the old elements of the WTO system are analysed (agriculture, textiles and clothing and some systemic issues such as safeguard system, balance-of-payments rules and dispute settlement). The fifth part traces the journey of WTO from triumph (Marrakesh 1994) to fiasco (Seattle 1999). The last part of the Working Paper attempts to delineate what is to be done. The possibility of a degree of moderation, if not redress, to the on-going process of inequitable integration can emerge only if formal democratic representation, as mandated in the constitution of WTO, is strategically exercised by those majority members who bear the costs of integration.