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The Uruguay Round Agreements

The GATT dispute resolution system is generally regarded as one of the cornerstones of the multilateral trade order. The system has already been strengthened and streamlined by the reforms agreed upon at the mid-term ministerial review meeting in Montreal in December 1988. Disputes currently before the Council are subject to these new rules, which include a larger automatic system for decisions relating to the institution, mandate and composition of bodies, so that these decisions no longer depend on the agreement of the parties to the dispute. The Uruguay Round Agreement on Dispute Resolution Rules and Procedures (DSU) will further strengthen the existing system and extend the largest automatic system agreed at the mid-term review to include the adoption of bodies and the results of a new appeal body. In addition, the DSU will establish an integrated system allowing WTO members to base their claims on one of the multilateral trade agreements contained in the WTO agreement annexes. To this end, a dispute resolution body (DSB) exercises the authority of the General Council and the boards and committees of covered agreements. The economic reasons for the introduction of agriculture under the GATT have been reversed: in previous cycles, the emphasis has always been on the further reduction of bound tariffs on imported industrial products. Following seven GATT cycles, tariffs in the major industrialized countries were only 5-10% in the mid-1980s and the scope for liberalization was less and less. At the same time, there have been a number of trade issues that have been driving GATT`s liberalization efforts over the years. In these areas – such as agriculture, textiles and clothing, services and intellectual property – there are still barriers to trade of one kind or another.

The ambitious objective of the Uruguay Round was therefore to put these issues on the table and to try to reach a broader agreement on trade liberalization. The objectives were achieved by establishing a number of complementary agreements on the traditional TARIFF reduction obligations of the GATT. Then some of these agreements will be highlighted. Despite the difficulties, the ministers agreed at the Montreal meeting on an earlier set of results. These included a few market access concessions for tropical products to assist developing countries, as well as a streamlined dispute settlement system and the Trade Policy Review Mechanism, which provided for the first comprehensive, systematic and regular review of national policies and practices of GATT member countries. The round was to end when ministers met again in Brussels in December 1990. But they disagreed on agricultural trade reform and decided to prolong the talks. The Uruguay Round has entered its darkest phase. The General Council assigns responsibility to three other important bodies: the councils for trade in goods, trade in services and the ADPIC Council. The Goods Council oversees the implementation and operation of all merchandise trade agreements, although many of these agreements have their own specific supervisory authorities. There is, for example, an agriculture commission. In short, the WTO is the common institutional framework for the implementation of trade relations between its members in cases relating to the agreements contained in the exclusionary act.

Japan, like the EC, has sought to protect its farmers from international competition, particularly in the rice sector, for which it wants special treatment.


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