Twenty-five years ago, on 15 April 1994, representatives from more than 120 nations gathered in Marrakesh, Morocco, to sign what was described at the time as the “greatest trade agreement in history”, one which led to the establishment of the WTO and created a new global framework for liberalizing trade in goods and services, protecting intellectual property rights, and easing trade tensions through a new dispute resolution mechanism.
The texts signed in Marrakesh on that day were the result of the 1986-94 Uruguay Round negotiations, an unprecedented endeavour in international trade which produced more than 60 agreements and decisions totalling 550 pages – making it one of the largest treaties ever signed. The signing took place at a meeting of trade ministers to the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) and led to the transformation of the GATT into the WTO.
The WTO’s creation on 1 January 1995 marked the biggest reform of international trade since after the Second World War. It also brought to reality — in an updated form — the failed attempt in 1948 to create an International Trade Organization. Today the WTO has 164 members accounting for 98% of world trade.
“The agreements you will sign here this week mean opportunities to expand trade, economic growth and employment,” declared Peter Sutherland, the last GATT Director-General and the WTO’s first Director-General, at the opening of the Marrakesh meeting. “They mean opportunities to promote sustainable development. And they also mean an opportunity – the most significant one we have had for fifty years – to build a new basis for global economic cooperation.” His full speech is available here
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