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Timeline of Trade Policy: The GATT Period, 1946-1994
The supposedly temporary GATT, which had been intended to serve as a stop-gap measure while the Havana Charter of the International Trade Organization was being adopted, becomes the centerpiece of the trading system for half a century.

 

 

Major world events are shown in red.

Developments in trade policy and allied fields are shown in black.

Important events in U.S. law and policy are shown in
blue.

Landmarks in economic, legal, and political theory, as well as technological developments, are shown in green.

 

 

 

COLONIAL PERIOD
PAX BRITTANICA
SECOND THIRTY YEARS WAR
WTO PERIOD

 

 

 


1946

The Vietnam War begins with attacks on French troops.

The first session of the Preparatory Committee of the United Nations Conference on Trade and Employment is held. Conferees consider a draft charter for an International Trade Organization.

The International Monetary Fund is established.

The Constitution of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization enters into force.

1947

The Truman Doctrine is declared.

The Marshall Plan is established to aid European economies.

The first draft of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (now known as GATT 1947) is concluded.

1947

India and Pakistan become independent.

The first (Geneva) round of GATT trade negotiations is held in Geneva, Switzerland, lasting until 1948.

1948

Communist coup in Czechoslovakia.

State of Israel is created.

Charter of the Organization of American States is reached in Bogotá.

Chile accedes to GATT.

The U.S. Congress approves a one-year extension of the Reciprocal Trade Agreements Act, with a peril-points provision.

Bell Telephone team develops the transistor.

1949

The North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) is established, committing 12 Western nations to a mutual defense alliance.

The Soviet Union becomes a nuclear power.

The People’s Republic of China is proclaimed.

The second (Annecy) round of GATT trade negotiations is held in France.

Denmark, the Dominican Republic, Finland, Greece, Haiti, Italy, Liberia, Nicaragua, Sweden, and Uruguay accede to GATT.

The Coordinating Committee for Multilateral Export Controls (COCOM) is established to coordinate policies restricting exports of strategic products to the Soviet Union and other communist countries.

The Council for Mutual Economic Assistance (COMECON) is established among Communist countries.

The U.S. Congress approves a two-year extension of the Reciprocal Trade Agreements Act, repealing the peril-points provision.

1950

The Korean War breaks out, and hostilities will last until 1953.

The third (Torquay) round of GATT trade negotiations begins in England, and will last until 1951.

Indonesia succeeds to GATT.

The Customs Cooperation Council is established.

The Schuman Plan proposes the European Coal and Steel Community, precursor to the European Union.

The International Labour Organization Convention Number 87: Freedom of Association and Protection of the Right to Organize enters into force.

Jacob Viner publishes The Customs Union Issue.

1951

Austria, Germany, Peru, Turkey, and Uruguay accede to GATT.

The International Labour Organization Convention Number 98: Right to Organise and Collective Bargaining enters into force.

The United States revokes most-favored-nation treatment for Communist countries other than Yugoslavia.

The U.S. Congress approves a two-year extension of the Reciprocal Trade Agreements Act, restores the a peril-points provision, and providing for an escape clause.

1952

The Agreement on the Importation of Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Materials (also known as the Florence Agreement) enters into force.

1953

The International Labour Organization Convention Number 100: Equal Remuneration for Men and Women Workers for Work of Equal Value enters into force.

The U.S. Congress approves a one-year extension of the Reciprocal Trade Agreements Act.

1954

North Vietnamese forces defeat French in the Battle of Dien Bienphu.

The U.S. Congress approves a one-year extension of the Reciprocal Trade Agreements Act.

The U.S. Congress enacts the Agricultural Trade Development and Assistance Act of 1954 to promote the foreign distribution of U.S. agricultural products.

1955

Formation of the Warsaw Pact.

The Bandung Conference of Asian-African Nations is held.

Japan accedes to GATT.

The U.S. Congress approves a three-year extension of the Reciprocal Trade Agreements Act.

1956

Simultaneous crises in the Suez (British, French, and Israeli invasion of Egypt) and Hungary (Soviet intervention).

France pulls out of Vietnam.

The fourth (Geneva) round of GATT trade negotiations is held in Switzerland.

The beginnings of containerization for trucked and shipped goods.

1957

The launching of Sputnik inaugurates the Space Race.

The Treaty of Rome creates the European Economic Community.

Malaysia succeeds to GATT.

1958

The U.S. Congress approves a four-year extension of the Reciprocal Trade Agreements Act.

1959

The Cuban Revolution.

The International Labour Organization Convention Number 105: Abolition of Forced Labour enters into force.

1960

The fifth (Dillon) round of GATT trade negotiations begins in Geneva, Switzerland. It lasts until 1962.

Nigeria succeeds to GATT.

The Stockholm Convention establishes the European Free Trade Association.

The International Labour Organization Convention Number 111: Discrimination (Employment and Occupation) enters into force.

The International Development Association is established as a World Bank affiliate.

Theodore Maiman invents the laser.

1961

The Conference of Non-Aligned Nations is held in Belgrade.

Construction of the Berlin Wall.

Israel and Portugal accede to GATT.

The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) is formed, replacing the Organization for European Economic Cooperation. The Convention on the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development enters into force.

The European Economic Community establishes its Common Agricultural Policy (CAP).

The Rome Convention for the Protection of Performers, Producers of Phonograms, and Broadcasting Organizations is adopted.

The Kennedy administration establishes the U.S. Agency for International Development.

The Kennedy administration inaugurates the Alliance for Progress, a U.S. economic initiative in Latin America.

1962

The Cuban Missile Crisis.

Trinidad and Tobago succeeds to GATT.

The U.S. Congress enacts the Trade Expansion Act, providing authority for U.S. participation in the Kennedy Round of GATT trade negotiations.

The U.S. Congress approves the Tariff Classification Act, leading to a revision of the U.S. nomenclature.

The Kennedy administration creates the Special Trade Representative, predecessor agency to the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative.

The American Standards Association adopts standardized containers.

1963

The sixth (Kennedy) round of GATT trade negotiations begins in Geneva, Switzerland, and will last until 1967.

Spain accedes to GATT.

Jamaica succeeds to GATT.

France vetoes British accession to the European Common Market.

1964

The U.S. involvement in Vietnam War increases following enactment by the U.S. Congress of the Tonkin Gulf Resolution.

Kenya succeeds to GATT.

The first United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD-I) is held in Geneva, Switzerland.

1965

Mancur Olson publishes The Logic of Collective Action.

1966

Switzerland and Yugoslavia accede to GATT.

UNESCO adopts the Declaration of the Principles of International Cultural Co-operation.

1967

Argentina, Iceland, Ireland, Korea, and Poland accede to GATT.

1968

Soviet intervention in Czechoslovakia.

The second U.N. Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD-II).

1969

The Andean Pact is established.

The U.S. Congress enacts the Export Administration Act.

Apollo XI lands on the Moon.

Establishment of ARPANET, the precursor to the Internet.

1970

Egypt accedes to GATT.

The former United International Bureaux for the Protection of Intellectual Property becomes the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO). The Convention Establishing the World Intellectual Property Organization enters into force.

Adoption of the Patent Cooperation Treaty.

Adoption of the UNESCO Convention on the Means of Prohibiting and Preventing the Illicit Import, Export and Transfer of Ownership of Cultural Property.

1971

Bangladesh becomes independent.

Zaire and Romania accede to GATT.

1972

President Nixon visits China, beginning a process of normalization in U.S.-Chinese relations.

The third U.N. Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD-III) is held in Santiago, Chile.

Bangladesh accedes to GATT.

Adoption of the UNESCO Convention concerning the Protection of the World Cultural and Natural Heritage.

1973

The Yom Kippur War.

The seventh (Tokyo) round of GATT trade negotiations begins in Japan, and will last until 1979.

Hungary accedes to GATT.

Singapore succeeds to GATT.

The Kyoto Convention is established to harmonize national customs procedures on a global basis.

The OPEC oil embargo substantially raises global oil prices.

Denmark, Great Britain, and Ireland accede to the European Community.

1974

The Multi-Fiber Arrangement goes into force, permitting quantitative restrictions on textile imports.

The U.S. Congress enacts the Trade Act of 1974. This law makes the first grant of “fast track” negotiating authority, authorizes the Generalized System of Preferences, amends many U.S. trade laws, changes the name of the U.S. Tariff Commission to the U.S. International Trade Commission, etc.

Immanuel Wallerstein publishes The Modern World-System.

1975

End of the Vietnam War.

The Lomé Convention is signed. The European Community agrees to provide financial and technical assistance to African, Caribbean, and Pacific countries, and to provide tariff preferences for many of their products.

The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) enters into force.

1976

The fourth U.N. Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD-IV), held in Nairobi, Kenya.

The International Labour Organization Convention Number 138: Minimum Age enters into force.

1977

The U.S. Congress enacts the International Emergency Economic Powers Act, extending emergency powers that were first granted to the president by the Trading With the Enemy Act.

The U.S. Senate consents to the ratification of the Panama Canal treaties.

1978

Camp David peace accords reached between Egupt and Israel.

Adoption of the UNESCO Recommendation for the Protection of Movable Cultural Property.

1979

The Iranian Revolution.

The Soviet Union invades Afghanistan.

Formal diplomatic relations established between the United States and China.

Participating governments initial agreements negotiated during the Tokyo Round.

The fifth U.N. Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD-V) is held in Manila, Philippines.

Colombia and the Philippines accede to GATT.

The Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties enters into force.

The U.S. Congress enacts the implementing legislation for the Tokyo Round agreements, known as the Trade Agreements Act of 1979. The law also amends the GSP, renames the Office of the Special Trade Representative the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative, and makes other changes in U.S. law.

The U.S. Congress enacts the Export Administration Act of 1979, allowing the president to control exports of certain goods and technical data.

1980

The United States extends, on a conditional basis, most favored nation treatment to China.

1981

The United Nations Conference on the Least Developed Countries is held in Paris, France.

Greece accedes to the European Community.

1982

Falkland Islands War between Great Britain and Argentina.

A ministerial meeting at GATT headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland, identifies a GATT work program for the 1980s focusing on barriers to agricultural trade, services, and obstacles to developing country exports.

Thailand accedes to GATT.

The U.S. Congress enacts the Export Trading Company Act.

1983

The sixth U.N. Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD-VI) is held in Belgrade, Yugoslavia.

The International Convention on the Harmonized Commodity Description and Coding System (Harmonized System) is approved by the Customs Cooperation Council. This arrangement enters into force in 1988.

1984

The U.S. Congress enacts the Trade and Tariff Act. It renews fast-track authority and makes numerous amendments to other trade laws.

The U.S. Congress enacts the Caribbean Basin Economic Recovery Act.

1985

In the Plaza Accord, finance ministers and central bankers of the G-5 agree to force down the U.S. dollar’s value relative to other currencies.

The United States and Israel conclude the first U.S. free trade agreement (FTA).

The U.S. Congress enacts the Export Enhancement Program to subsidize U.S. agricultural exports.

1986

The eighth (Uruguay) round of GATT trade negotiations begin with adoption of the Ministerial Declaration in Punta del Este, and will last until 1993.

Mexico accedes to GATT.

Hong Kong succeeds to GATT.

Spain and Portugal join the European Community.

1987

The Single Act of the European Community is signed, further deepening European integration.

Morocco accedes to GATT.

1988

A midterm review of the Uruguay Round is held in Montreal (the Montreal Ministerial). Frameworks to complete Uruguay Round negotiations are reached in some areas, but negotiations are hung up on agriculture, intellectual property, textiles, and safeguards.

The Montreal Protocol is negotiated to phase out the use of ozone-damaging chemicals.

The United States and Canada conclude an FTA.

The U.S. Congress enacts the Omnibus Trade and Competitiveness Act. It renews fast-track authority and makes numerous amendments to other trade laws.

The United States signs the Berne Convention.

1989

Fall of the Berlin Wall.

China crushes a student demonstration in Tienanmen Square.

The Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum is established. The group’s membership includes Australia, Brunei, Canada, Indonesia, Japan, South Korea, Malaysia, New Zealand, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, and the United States.

Bolivia and Costa Rica accede to GATT.

The European Community adopts the "Television without Frontiers" directive establishing (whenever feasible) that 50 percent or "a majority" of the TV screening must be European.

The United States implements the Harmonized Tariff System, replacing the Tariff Schedules of the United States.

1990

The Gulf War begins with Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait, and will end in 1991 with the invasion of Iraq.

El Salvador, Tunisia, and Venezuela accede to GATT.

The Bush administration launches the Enterprise for the Americas Initiative, including debt and trade initiatives.

Invention of the protocols for the World Wide Web.

1991

The Soviet Union dissolves.

MERCOSUR (Southern Common Market) is formed by Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay, and Uruguay.

APEC admits the People’s Republic of China, Chinese Taipei, and Hong Kong.

Guatemala accedes to GATT.

Canada, Mexico, and the United States initiate negotiations for the North American FTA. These talks conclude in 1992.

The U.S. Congress enacts the Andean Trade Preferences Act.

1992

NAFTA negotiations conclude.

The Basel Convention on the Control of Transboundary Movements of Hazardous Wastes and their Disposal enters into force.

The Convention on Biological Diversity is concluded.

The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change is concluded.

1993

The Czech Republic, the Slovak Republic, and Paraguay accede to GATT.

Following the negotiation of side agreements on labor, the environment, and import surges, as well as extensive internal bargaining, the U.S. Congress approves NAFTA.

President Clinton hosts the first leaders’ meeting in connection with an APEC ministerial.

The Uruguay Round is concluded.

The Treaty on European Union (the Maastricht Treaty) enters into force after ratification by the twelve European Economic Community members. The European Union, consisting of all EEC members, is established.

1994

The Uruguay Round agreements are signed in Marrakesh, Morocco. These include, among many others, the Agreement Establishing the World Trade Organization, the Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights, the General Agreement on Trade in Services, and the Understanding on Rules and Procedures Governing the Settlement of Disputes.

Honduras and Slovenia accede to GATT.

The former Customs Cooperation Council is renamed the World Customs Organization.

The European Economic Area is inaugurated.

Negotiations to admit Austria, Sweden, Finland, and Norway to the European Union conclude. Referenda to enter the European Union pass in Austria, Sweden, and Finland, but a referendum in Norway fails.

The APEC Summit is held in Indonesia, and the Bogor Declaration of Common Resolve is issued. Industrialized member nations are to open their economies to free trade and investment by 2010, and developing member nations by 2020. Chile is admitted to APEC.

The Summit of the Americas is held in Miami, adoptijng the goal of establishing a Free Trade Area of the Americas.

The Kyoto Protocol to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change enters into force.

The U.S. Congress enacts the Uruguay Round Agreements Act.

The Clinton administration drops the U.S. policy of linking most-favored-nation treatment of China to that country's human rights policies.

The World Wide Web is privatized.