The Uruguay Round was the 8th round of multilateral trade negotiations (MTN) conducted within the framework of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT), spanning from 1986 to 1994 and embracing 123 countries as "contracting parties". The Round led to the creation of the World Trade Organization, with GATT remaining as an integral part of the WTO agreements. The broad mandate of the Round had been to extend GATT trade rules to areas previously exempted as too difficult to liberalize (agriculture, textiles) and increasingly important new areas previously not included (trade in services, intellectual property, investment policy trade distortions). The Round came into effect in 1995 with deadlines ending in 2000 (2004 in the case of developing country contracting parties) under the administrative direction of the newly created World Trade Organization (WTO).
The main objectives of the Uruguay Round were:
- to reduce agricultural subsidies
- to lift restrictions on foreign investment, and
- to begin the process of opening trade in services like banking and insurance.
The round was launched in Punta del Este, Uruguay in September 1986, followed by negotiations in Geneva, Brussels, Washington, D.C., and Tokyo, with the 20 agreements finally being signed in Marrakesh—the Marrakesh Agreement—in April 1994.
The 1982 Ministerial Declaration identified problems including structural deficiencies, spill-over impacts of certain countries' policies on world trade GATT could not manage. To address these issues, the eighth GATT round (known as the Uruguay Round) was launched in September 1986, in Punta del Este, Uruguay. It was the biggest negotiating mandate on trade ever agreed: the talks were going to extend the trading system into several new areas, notably trade in services and intellectual property, and to reform trade in the sensitive sectors of agriculture and textiles; all the original GATT articles were up for review.
The round was supposed to end in December 1990, but the US and EU disagreed on how to reform agricultural trade and decided to extend the talks. Finally, In November 1992, the US and EU settled most of their differences in a deal known informally as "the Blair House accord", and on April 15, 1994, the deal was signed by ministers from most of the 123 participating governments at a meeting in Marrakesh, Morocco. The agreement established the World Trade Organization, which came into being upon its entry into force on January 1, 1995, to replace the GATT system. It is widely regarded as the most profound institutional reform of the world trading system since the GATT's establishment.
The GATT still exists as the WTO's umbrella treaty for trade in goods, updated as a result of the Uruguay Round negotiations (a distinction is made between GATT 1994, the updated parts of GATT, and GATT 1947, the original agreement which is still the heart of GATT 1994). The GATT 1994 is not, however, the only legally binding agreement included in the Final Act; a long list of about 60 agreements, annexes, decisions and understandings was adopted. In fact, the agreements fall into a simple structure with six main parts:
- an umbrella agreement (the Agreement Establishing the WTO);
- goods and investment (the Multilateral Agreements on Trade in Goods including the GATT 1994 and the Trade Related Investment Measures (TRIMS));
- services (General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS));
- intellectual property (Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS));
- dispute settlement (DSU);
- reviews of governments' trade policies (TPRM).
The agreements for the two largest areas under the WTO, goods and services, share a three-part outline:
- broad principles (such as the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade and General Agreement on Trade in Services);
- extra agreements and annexes;
- lengthy schedules (lists) of commitments made by individual countries.
One of the achievements of the Uruguay round would be the Uruguay Round Agreement on Agriculture, administered by the WTO, which brings agricultural trade more fully under the GATT. Prior to the Uruguay Round, conditions for agricultural trade were deteriorating with increasing use of subsidies, build-up of stocks, declining world prices and escalating costs of support. It provides for converting quantitative restrictions to tariffs and for a phased reduction of tariffs. The agreement also imposes rules and disciplines on agricultural export subsidies, domestic subsidies, and sanitary and phytosanitary (SPS) measures through the Agreement on the Application of Sanitary and Phytosanitary Measures
Groups such as Oxfam have criticized the Uruguay Round for paying insufficient attention to the special needs of developing countries. One aspect of this criticism is that figures very close to rich country industries—such as former Cargill executive Dan Amstutz—had a major role in the drafting of Uruguay Round language on agriculture and other matters. As with the WTO in general, non-governmental organizations (NGOs) such as Health Gap and Global Trade Watch also criticize what was negotiated in the Round on intellectual property and industrial tariffs as setting up too many constraints on policy-making and human needs. An article asserts that the developing countries’ lack of experience in WTO negotiations and lack of knowledge of how the developing economies would be affected by what the industrial countries wanted in the WTO new areas; the intensified mercantilist attitude of the GATT/WTO’s major power, the US.; the structure of the WTO that made the GATT tradition of decision by consensus ineffective, so that a country would not preserve the status quo, were the reasons for this imbalance.
- Cairns Group
- Cultural exception
- Doha Round
- Golan v. Gonzales, a challenge to the copyright restoration provisions of the Uruguay Round Agreements Act of 1996, the implementation of the Uruguay Round agreements in the United States Code
- Tokyo Round
- Cline, William (January 1995). "Evaluating the Uruguay Round". The World Economy 18 (1): 1. doi:10.1111/j.1467-9701.1995.tb00198.x.
- The Uruguay Round, World Trade Organization
- "UNDERSTANDING THE WTO: THE DOHA AGENDA". World Trade Organization. Retrieved 8 April 2013.
- P. Gallagher, The First Ten Years of the WTO, 4
- A. Bredimas, International Economic Law, 16
- Even after agreement was reached in December 1993, and the Final Act was signed, the effort almost foundered in the US Congress, and the member states engaged in a quarrel for close to a year about who would be the first Director General of the WTO (A.F. Lowenfeld, Preface, ix).
- P. Gallagher, The First Ten Years of the WTO, 10
* Martin-Winters, The Uruguay Round, 2
*Kay, Adrian and Ackrill, Robert (2009) Institutional Change in the International Governance of Agriculture: A Revised Account, Governance 22.3: 483–506
- P. Gallagher, The First Ten Years of the WTO, 4
* The Uruguay Round, World Trade Organization
- Overview: a Navigational Guide, World Trade Organization. For the complete list of "The Uruguay Round Agreements", see WTO legal texts, World Trade Organization, and Urugua Round Agreements, Understandings, Decisions and Declarations, WorldTradeLaw.net
- Tanner, Carolyn (April 1996). "AGRICULTURAL TRADE LIBERALISATION AND THE URUGUAY ROUND". Australian Journal of Agricultural and Resource Economics 40 (1): 1. Retrieved 8 April 2013.
- Finger, J. Michae; Julio J. Nogués (March 2002). "The Unbalanced Uruguay Round Outcome: The New Areas in Future WTO Negotiations". The World Economy 25 (3): 321. doi:10.1111/1467-9701.00435. Retrieved 8 April 2013.