GATT/WTO

Download PDF version of guide for print

I. Introduction

The General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT), which was signed in 1947, is a multilateral agreement regulating trade among 153 countries. According to its preamble, the purpose of the GATT is the "substantial reduction of tariffs and other trade barriers and the elimination of preferences, on a reciprocal and mutually advantageous basis."

The GATT functioned de facto as an organization, conducting eight rounds of talks addressing various trade issues and resolving international trade disputes. The Uruguay Round, which was completed on December 15, 1993 after seven years of negotiations, resulted in an agreement among 117 countries (including the U.S.) to reduce trade barriers and to create more comprehensive and enforceable world trade rules. The agreement coming out of this round, the Final Act Embodying the Results of the Uruguay Round of Multilateral Trade Negotiations, was signed in April 1994. The Uruguay Round agreement was approved and implemented by the U.S. Congress in December 1994, and went into effect on January 1, 1995.

This agreement also created the World Trade Organization (WTO), which came into being on January 1, 1995. The WTO implements the agreement, provides a forum for negotiating additional reductions of trade barriers and for settling policy disputes, and enforces trade rules. The WTO launched the ninth round of multilateral trade negotiations under the "Doha Development Agenda" (DDA or Doha Round) in 2001. The WTO's website provides information about the Doha Round, including links to texts that have been generated by the negotiations and information regarding upcoming meetings.

GATT and WTO materials are available in the Goodson Law Library and in Perkins. The online database Trade Law Guide also contains WTO resources. The Davis Library at the University of North Carolina has been a depository library for GATT materials, and continues to receive most of the materials published by the WTO.

Back to top

II. Text of Agreements and Other Documents

The text of the original agreement establishing the GATT, with annexes and schedules, is attached to the Final Act of the United Nations Conference on Trade and Employment. It was not signed as a separate document, but is in force among the contracting parties through the Protocol of Provisional Application and the subsequent Protocols of Accession. These documents are found at 61 Stat. A3 and 55 U.N.T.S. 187. The Protocol of Provisional Application, which was signed by the eight principal states involved in the negotiations (including the U.S.), is published at 61 Stat. A2051 and 55 U.N.T.S. 308.

The Final Act Embodying the Results of the Uruguay Round of Multinational Trade Agreements consists of the Final Act itself, the Agreement establishing the WTO ("WTO Agreement") and agreements annexed to it, and additional GATT agreements, decisions and declarations. The text can be found in various sources: 1867 U.N.T.S. 3, 33 I.L.M. 9 (1994) (December 1993 text) and 33 I.L.M. 1143 (1994) (April 1994 text), The Final Act Embodying the Results of the Uruguay Round of Multilateral Trade Negotiations (K4603 1987 .A3 1994), The Legal Texts: The Results of the Uruguay Round of Multilateral Trade Negotiations (K4603 1987.A4 1999); reprint of The Results of the Uruguay Round of Multilateral Trade Negotiations: The Legal Texts (Perkins Ref. JZ5185 .R478 1994) and in The Uruguay Round of Multilateral Trade Negotiations (Microforms Room, filed with GATT Documents). The text is also available online on the WTO website, in Lexis.com (INTLAW;GATT). Two of the most important of the annexed agreements are the General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS), 33 I.L.M. 44 (1994) (December 1993 text) and 1869 UNTS 183, 33 I.L.M. 1167 (1994) (April 1994 text) and the Agreement on Trade Related Aspects of Intellectual Property (TRIPS), 33 I.L.M. 81 (1994) (December1993 text) and 1869 UNTS 299, 33 I.L.M. 1197 (1994) (April 1994 text).

WTO Status of Legal Instruments (K4610.A15 W86), prepared by the WTO Secretariat. This publication updates the status of the Agreement establishing the WTO and its annexes, along with protocols of accession and other instruments drawn up under the auspices of the WTO.

The GATT Uruguay Round: A Negotiating History (Terence P. Stewart, ed.)(K4603 1987 .G38 1993) contains commentary and documents related to the negotiations process.

Guide to the Uruguay Round Agreements (K4603 1987 .W67 1999), edited by the WTO Secretariat, provides a detailed explanation of the legal significance of the agreements coming out of the Uruguay Round of negotiations.

In addition to the texts of all the agreements, Law and Practice of the World Trade Organization (K4600. L38) contains other primary documents such as ministerial declarations and decisions. Guide to GATT Law and Practice: Analytical Index (K4602.2 .G84 1995) includes the text of the agreement, the application and interpretation of its provisions, the drafting history and other relevant documents. It is succeeded by the WTO Analytical Index: Guide to WTO Law and Practice (Reference K4602.2).

Other GATT & WTO documents are available in a variety of sources:

The "Documents Gateway" on the WTO website provides links to WTO legal texts and official documents (including texts of the WTO agreements) as well as to documents issued under the GATT.

Basic Instruments and Selected Documents (BISD) (K4602 .B36). This annual publication is the primary source of GATT documents. It contains the text of GATT agreements and amendments, Protocol of Provisional Application and Annexes and other legal instruments (such as decisions, declarations, resolutions, and other selected documents ). The WTO considers the documents in BISD to have the legal standing of the originals. Unfortunately, it is several years behind.

Basic Documents of International Economic Law (K3820 .A35 B37 1990 and on Lexis.com (INTLAW;BDIEL) & in WestlawNext IEL database) contains many of these same materials. The online versions are more current than the book.

GATT Digital Library: This online library of more than 30,000 GATT documents from 1947 to 1994 is a joint project of the WTO and Stanford University. You must register to access the full texts of the documents, but registration is free. This site also includes bibliographies, research guides and links to other useful websites.

The WTO is working to produce a digital archive with all official documents issued under the GATT; more than half of the documents are available on the WTO website. GATT Documents (called WTO Documents after 1994) (Microforms Room) is a microfiche set containing documents from 1984 to 1996 de-restricted by GATT. The fiche set includes committee reports, press releases, speeches, etc., as well as "Trade Policy Reviews" for member countries. Some documents, including documents from multilateral trade negotiations, have never been de-restricted or released. Documents are arranged by fiche number. These documents can be accessed by subject, product, GATT instrument number, and geographical location through a printed guide, the List and Index of Documents Issued (Microforms Room).

International Legal Materials (Periodicals) is a good source for current GATT documents. Legal materials are published here before they appear in BISD. I.L.M. also publishes selected GATT and WTO panel reports. It is available electronically in HeinOnline, Lexis.com (INTLAW; ILM) and WestlawNext (ILM database).

Back to top

III. Background Information

Raj Bhala, Modern GATT Law, 3d ed. (K4609.5 .B43 2013) provides an article-by-article analysis of the GATT along with an examination of the case law (including WTO decisions) and a discussion of the legal aspects of GATT.

Current members of the Duke Law community have access to BNA's WTO Reporter and International Trade Reporter, which are excellent sources for both primary and background materials (older print editions of the International Trade Reporter are in Superseded Looseleafs). You can view issues online or sign up for e-mail delivery of upcoming issues. The WTO Reporter is a daily digest covering issues such as accession to the WTO, antidumping regulations, and taxation; it also includes regular analysis of domestic and international case law on trade issues. The International Trade Reporter contains both digests and full texts of administrative and judicial decisions on U.S. trade policy along with information on pending legislation and proposed regulations, Congressional hearings and information on/by the International Trade Commission, U.S. Trade Representative and other bodies.

Walter Goode, Dictionary of Trade Policy Terms, 5th ed. (Ref. HF1373 .G66 2007) is a guide to the terminology used in trade negotiations, focusing on the WTO. Raj Bhala, Dictionary of International Trade Law (Ref. K3943 .B488 2012) also offers a comprehensive review of international trade terminology.

Amrtia Narlikar, et al., The Oxford Handbook on the World Trade Organization (TRLN Shared Print HF1385 .N368 2012) offers a holistic and interdisciplinary look at the WTO’s achievements, problems, and challenges.

John Howard Jackson, The World Trade Organization: Constitution and Jurisprudence (K4600 .J34 1998) and The World Trading System: Law and Policy of International Economic Relations, 2d ed. (K4602.2 .J34 1997 & online in NetLibrary).

Law and Practice of the World Trade Organization (K4600 .L38) includes texts of documents that created the WTO, commentary, and decisions of the WTO Dispute Settlement panels. It continues Law and Practice Under the GATT (K4602.2 .L38 1988) which provides basic documents, analysis, and commentaries.

Petros C. Mavroidis, The General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade: A Commentary (Oxford Commentaries on the GATT/WTO Agreements) (K4600 .M288 2005)

Amrita Narlikar, The World Trade Organization: A Very Short Introduction (HF1385 .N37 2005) focuses on the politics of the WTO.

The Oxford Handbook of International Trade Law (Daniel Bethlehem [et al.], eds.) (K1005 .O94 2009).

Jeanne Rehberg, WTO and GATT Research provides sources for WTO/GATT research with citations and descriptions.

Ellen G. Schaffer, "The World Trade Organization: A Bibliographic Overview of its Publications" in Introduction to International Business Law: Legal Transactions in a Global Economy (Ref. K1001 .I57 1996).

Petros Mavroidis, Trade in Goods: The GATT and the Other WTO Agreements Regulating Trade in Goods (TRLN K4600 .M393 2012) provides a historic and economic rationale for the development of the multilateral trading system while analyzing the WTO’s case law and trade in goods agreement.

Yenkong Ngangjoh Hodu, Theories and Practices of Compliance with WTO Law (K3943 .N48 2012) this critical text analyzes the failures of the WTO to elicit compliance with agreements using social science theories.

To find other works about the GATT, search in the online catalog with the subject keywords "General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (Organization)," "World Trade Organization" or "Foreign Trade Regulation."

Back to top

IV. Dispute Resolution

Reports by panels of experts have been an essential part of the GATT dispute settlement system since the 1950’s. This system continues in the WTO, with some changes in procedure and enforcement. The WTO Dispute Settlement Procedures: A Collection of the Relevant Legal Texts, 3d ed. (K4610.5 .A42 2012) contains the “treaty texts, decisions and agreed practices relating to the procedures that apply in the settlement of WTO disputes."

The WTO's Dispute Settlement web page contains the full text of adopted GATT reports and WTO panel, appeal and arbitration rulings along with updates of all WTO dispute settlement cases. Reports are often available in English, French, and Spanish. You can print reports in HTML, PDF or Word. Be aware that these decisions are often very lengthy. Because these reports are available in many sources, it’s a good idea to cite to paragraph numbers since they all include the paragraph numbering.

The WTO website provides a chronological list of disputes along with related documents. For each dispute, the website displays the current status, key facts, a summary of the dispute to date, and there is a link entitled “all documents” where you can see the many documents related to the case.

Dispute Settlement Reports (K4600.A53 W67) includes Panel and Appellate Body reports and arbitration awards under the WTO agreements. These are the WTO authorized and paginated English reports (coverage begins in 1996).

World Trade Organization Dispute Settlement Decisions: Bernan's Annotated Reporter (K4600 .A495 W67) provides the full text of all WTO Panels and Appellate Body decisions in chronological order (updated through 2003).

Links to submissions of various governments in WTO disputes can be found on this website as well. U.S. briefs filed in WTO Dispute Settlement Proceedings are also available on the website of the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative.

WTO Appellate Body Repertory of Reports and Awards, 1995-2006 (K4610.A7 W67) is an excellent subject guide to Appellate Body and Arbitration awards through 2006. The American Law Institute Reporters' Studies (K2400.A53 W78) is a series of yearly analyses of case law from the adjudicating bodies of the WTO, beginning with The WTO Case Law of 2001.

Other places to find panel reports and decisions include:

  • Basic Instruments and Selected Documents (K4602 .B36) contains GATT dispute settlement decisions.
  • Basic Documents of International Economic Law (K3820 .A35 B37 1990 and online in Lexis.com (INTLAW;BDIEL) and WestlawNext (IEL database); the online versions are more up-to-date, but still run a year or so behind).
  • International Legal Materials (Periodicals and online in HeinOnline, Lexis.com (INTLAW;ILM) and WestlawNext (ILM database)).
  • International Trade Law Reports (K3943.I58) includes commentaries along with the texts of decisions.
  • Law and Practice Under the GATT (K4602.2 .L38 1988), which is continued by Law and Practice of the World Trade Organization (K4600 .L38).
  • WTO Law, Litigation & Policy: Sourcebook of Internet Material (K4610 .M34 2007) is a compendium of important legal and policy documents made available on the Internet.
  • Lexis.com contains GATT and WTO reports which you can find with keyword searches (INTLAW; GTTWTO). You can also find GATT and WTO decisions in the Lexis version of Basic Documents of International Economic Law (INTLAW;BDIEL). For GATT reports, use the search query title(gatt and panel report) and [key words]; for WTO reports used the query title (world trade organization and report) and [key words].
    To search the Lexis version of International Legal Materials (INTLAW;ILM) use the query title(general agreement and panel report) and [key words] to find GATT panel reports. To find WTO reports used the query title (world trade organization and report) and [key words].
  • WestlawNext: Use the search bar to bring up GATT and WTO related databases and directories.  Typing “GATT” or “WTO” will bring up decisions and awards, and “IEL” and “ILM” bring up those secondary materials.  You can also navigate via Home > International Materials > International Administrative Materials > Multi-National Administrative Materials to find pertinent information.

Useful works about the dispute settlement system include:

A Handbook on the WTO Dispute Settlement System (prepared by the WTO Legal Affairs Division and the Appellate Body) (K4610 .W67 2004).

David Palmeter and Petros C. Mavroidis, Dispute Settlement in the World Trade Organization: Practice and Procedure, 2d ed.(K4610 .P346 2004).

Joost Pauwelyn et al., The WTO Dispute Settlement System 1995-2003 (K4610 .W786 2004).

Pierre Pescatore et al., Handbook of WTO/GATT Dispute Settlement (K4602.2 .P47 1991) provides an overview of GATT, and includes texts of the agreements and selected and edited dispute settlement decisions. It also explains how to find texts of panel reports and analyzes dispute settlement decisions. It is current through August 2000 and will no longer be updated.

R. Rajesh Babu, Remedies under the WTO Legal System (K4610 .B33 2012) provides a critical analysis of remedies of the WTO on development nations.

Back to top

V. Periodicals

The WTO's Annual Report (K4610.A15 A56 & online) (formerly GATT Activities in [year]) is the annual review of the work of the organization.

World Trade Review (Periodicals, WestlawNext & online), established by the WTO in cooperation with Cambridge University Press, this journal contains articles on issues of relevance to the multilateral trading system.

The Yearbook of the United Nations (Periodicals & online) briefly covers GATT activities.

Back to top

VI. U.S. Legislation, Regulations and Judicial Decisions

The implementing legislation, known as the Uruguay Round Agreements Act, was passed in December, 1994 (Pub. L. No. 103-465, 108 Stat. 4809).

Other legislation and regulations can be found in Statutes at Large, the U.S. Code, and the CFR. Some cases interpreting the statutes and regulations will be in the Decisions section of the BNA International Trade Reporter. Congressional materials (hearings, reports, etc.) are available through the regular resources such as the CIS Annual.

Back to top

VII. Citing WTO & GATT Documents

  • Rule 21.11(a) of the Bluebook (19th ed. 2010) explains how to cite WTO panel decisions and rulings.
  • Rule 21.11(b) explains how to cite GATT panel decisions.
  • Rule 21.11(c) provides citation formats for reports.
  • Rule 21.11(d) covers the founding agreements.

Guidelines for Finding and Citing Paper Sources for GATT/WTO Documents provides detailed explanations and examples illustrating how these documents should be cited.

Back to top

rev. Michelle Modic & kml
06/2014