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 1986-1994 and embracing 123 countries as “contracting parties”. The Round transformed the GATT into the World Trade Organization.
The Round came into effect in 1995 and has been implemented over the period to 2000 (2004 in the case of developing country contracting parties) under the administrative direction of the newly created World Trade Organization (WTO). The Uruguay Round Agreement on Agriculture, administered by the WTO, brings agricultural trade more fully under the GATT. 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.
The Doha Development Round was the next trade round to commence in 2001.
The main objectives of the Uruguay Round were:
to reduce agricultural subsidies
to put restrictions on foreign investment, and
to begin the process of opening trade in services like banking and insurance.
They also wanted to draft a code to deal with copyright violation and other forms of intellectual property rights.
The round was launched in Punta del Este, Uruguay in September 1986, followed by negotiations in Montreal, 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);
agreements for each of the three broad areas of trade that the WTO covers: goods and investment (the Multilateral Agreements on Trade in Goods including the GATT 1994 and the Trade Related Investment Measures (TRIMS)), General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS), and Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS);
dispute settlement (DSU);
Agreement on Customs Valuation and
reviews of governments' trade policies (TPRM).
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.