The Role of Consensus in GATT/WTO Decision-making

Footer, Mary E. | January 1, 1997

The most striking aspect of the new World Trade Organization (WTO)’ is the extent to which it preserves and consolidates the body of law and practice which has evolved out of the development of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT)2 and related instru- ments. Such preservation and consolidation is deliberate as the pre- amble to the Marrakesh Agreement Establishing the World Trade Organization (Marrakesh Agreement) makes clear.3 The mechanism chosen for the transition from the GAT-T to the WTO was designed to provide a degree of continuity, stability and thereby predictability in the multilateral trading system. Its occurrence is due, in no small measure, to the active role of the GATT Secretariat in pursuing this initiative and to the willingness of representatives of governments and the European Communities, present at the close of the Uruguay Round of Multilateral Trade Negotiations at Marrakesh, to agree to it. The Marrakesh Agreement is all the more extraordinary because the antecedent of GATT law and practice was not a succession of one international organization by another international organization nor of treaty succession. Instead, the GATT 1947 – the GAIT which came into force on 1 January 19484 – was integrated into the WTO Agreement, as part of the GATT 1994. The GATT 1994 contains the text of the old GATT 1947, together with all its amendments, correc- tions, decisions and so on, to which were added six understandings and a protocol (consisting of new tariff schedules).5