General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade

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General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade

The General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) originated with a meeting of 22 nations meeting in 1947 in Geneva, Switzerland. By 2000, there were 142 member nations, with another 30 countries seeking admission. The detailed commitments by each country to limit tariffs on particular items by the amount negotiated and specified in its tariff schedule is the central core of the GATT system of international obligation.

The obligations relating to the tariff schedules are contained in Article II of GATT. For each commodity listed on the schedule of a country, that country agrees to charge a tariff that will not exceed an amount specified in the schedule. It can, if it wishes, charge a lower tariff.

The World Trade Organization (WTO) heavily influences the workings of the GATT treaties through the efforts of various committees. Representatives of member countries of the WTO comprise the Council for the Trade in Goods (Goods Council), which oversees the work of 11 committees responsible for overseeing the various sectors of GATT. The committees focus on such issues as agriculture, sanitary measures, subsidies, customs valuation, and rules of origin.

Further readings

Bagwell, Kyle. 2002. The Economics of the World Trading System. Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press.


Commodity; Tariff.

West's Encyclopedia of American Law, edition 2. Copyright 2008 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.

General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade

abbreviation for GATT.
Collins Dictionary of Law © W.J. Stewart, 2006
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