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Timeline of Trade Policy: The WTO Period, 1995-Present
The creation of the WTO is the culmination of an institutional evolution that had been underway for generations, but the new body encountered problems from the very start.



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

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









The World Trade Organization is inaugurated in Geneva.

The Financial Services Protocol to the General Agreement on Trade in Services is concluded.

Austria, Finland, and Sweden become members of the European Union.

The European Commission and Council of Ministers implement steps leading toward the adoption of a single currency on January 1, 1999.

The APEC Summit is held in Japan. China agrees to reduce its import tariffs by 30 percent beginning in 1996. The Osaka Action Agenda establishes “three pillars” to realize free trade and investment among APEC members: trade and investment liberalization, trade and investment facilitation, and economic and technical cooperation.

The Wassenaar Arrangement succeeds COCOM to coordinate policies restricting dual-use goods and technologies and the spread of conventional weapons.


The APEC Summit is held in the Philippines. The Manila Action Plan is adopted, incorporating individual member action plans and collective activities of all APEC members to achieve Bogor deadlines.

The first WTO Ministerial Meeting is held in Singapore. The Ministerial Declaration establishes working groups to continue negotiations on trade and investment, trade and competition policy, and government procurement.

The Information Technology Agreement is concluded.

The Basic Telecommunications Services Agreement is concluded.

Bulgaria and Ecuador accede to the WTO.

Adoption of the WIPO Copyright Treaty.


China regains control of Hong Kong.

A new Financial Services Protocol to the General Agreement on Trade in Services is concluded.

Mongolia and Panama accede to the WTO.

The Treaty of Amsterdam establishes the framework for expansion of the European Union to include Eastern European nations.

The Asian economic crisis erupts as Indonesian, South Korean, and Thai currencies are devalued.

Negotiations to review and expand the Information Technology Agreement begin under WTO auspices.

The APEC Summit is held in Vancouver, Canada. APEC members adopt an “early voluntary sectoral liberalization” initiative to open markets in fifteen sectors.

In the U.S. Congress, the House of Representatives rejects a bill to renew the president’s fast-track trade negotiating authority.


The second WTO Ministerial Meeting is held in Geneva, Switzerland. It adopts a Ministerial Declaration and establishes a working group to discuss trade and global electronic commerce.

The Kyrgyz Republic accedes to the WTO.

Negotiations fail for a Multilateral Agreement on Investment in the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development.

The European Central Bank is established.

The Second Summit of the Americas is held in Santiago, Chile. Dates are set for further trade negotiations to establish a hemispheric free trade area.

The APEC summit is held in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. Additional market-opening is begun in the auto, oilseed, food, civil aircraft, fertilizer, and rubber sectors. Peru, Russia, and Vietnam become full APEC members.

The U.S. Congress enacts legislation requiring that the term "most favored nation" be replaced in U.S. law and practice by "normal trade relations."


The €uro is adopted as the single currency unit for many European Union members.

The European Union’s Treaty of Amsterdam enters into force.

The third WTO Ministerial Meeting is held in Seattle, Washington. The meeting fails to reach agreement on a new negotiating agenda.

Estonia and Latvia accede to the WTO.


Albania, Croatia, Georgia, Jordan, and Oman accede to the WTO.

The United Nations approves the Millennium Declaration.

The United States concludes an FTA with Jordan.

The U.S. Congress enacts the Trade and Development Act, including the Caribbean Basin Trade Partnership Act and the African Growth and Opportunity Act.

The U.S. Congress enacts legislation permitting the president to extend permanent normal trade relations (i.e., unconditional most favored nation treatment) to China.


Terrorists attack the United States on September 11. The United States invades Afghanistan.

The first (Doha) round of WTO negotiations is launched in Qatar, with the adoption of the Doha Ministerial Declaration, the Decision on Implementation-Related Issues and Concerns, and the Declaration on the TRIPs Agreement and Public Health.

China, Lithuania, and Moldova accede to the WTO.

UNESCO Universal Declaration on Cultural Diversity is adopted.

The Declaration of Quebec City and the Quebec Plan of Action are adopted at the Third (Quebec) Summit of the Americas.


Taiwan accedes to the WTO under the name “Separate Customs Territory of Taiwan, Penghu, Kinmen and Matsu.”

The U.S. Congress enacts the Trade of 2002, including inter alia a grant of trade promotion authority, renewal of the Generalized System of Preferences, and enactment of the Andean Trade Promotion and Drug Eradication Act.

The U.S. Congress enacts the Homeland Security Act of 2002 and the Farm Security and Rural Investment Act (both are large PDF files).


The United States invades Iraq.

The Cancún Ministerial Conference of the WTO fails in Mexico.

Armenia and Macedonia accede to the WTO.

The Cotonou Agreement between European Community and the African, Caribbean and Pacific States enters into force.

The United States concludes FTAs with Singapore and Chile; the U.S. Congress approves the implementing legislation for the FTAs.


The scope of the Doha Round is narrowed in the "July Package," with some issues laid aside (i.e., competition policy, investment, and transparency in government procurement), but market access for goods and services is still on the table.

Cambodia and Nepal accede to the WTO.

The last quotas under the defunct Multi Fiber Arrangement expire at the end of the year.

The Declaration of Nuevo Leon is adopted at the Special (Monterrey) Summit of the Americas.

The United States concludes FTAs with Australia, Bahrain, five Central American countries and the Dominican Republic, and Morocco.

The U.S. Congress approves the implementing legislation for the FTAs with Australia and Morocco.


The original deadlines for completion of both the Doha Round and the Free Trade Area of the Americas are missed.

Saudi Arabia accedes to the WTO.

The Hong Kong Ministerial Conference of the WTO is held without incident or notable progress.

The U.S. Congress approves the implementing legislation for the FTA with Central American and the Dominican Republic (CAFTA-DR) and the implementing legislation for the FTA with Bahrain.


The Doha Round is suspended in July, due to lack of forward momentum.

The U.S. Congress approves the implementing legislation for the FTA with Oman.

Democrats win majorities in both the House of Representatives and the Senate in the November elections.


Tonga and Viet Nam accede to the WTO.

[Although a WTO ministerial conference is supposed to be held this year, none is.]

The grant of Trade Promotion Authority provided under the Trade Act of 2002 expires on June 30.

The U.S. Congress and the Bush administration reach an agreement to revise the pending FTAs with Korea, Panama, and Peru, requiring inter alia that the provisions concerning labor rights and the environment be strengthened.

The U.S. Congress approves the implementing legislation for the FTA with Peru.


Failed efforts are made in the Doha Round to produce a "July Package" of modalities on NAMA, agriculture, and other issues.

Cape Verde and Ukraine accede to the WTO.

The U.S. Congress enacts the Food, Conservation, and Energy Act (also known as the 2008 Farm Bill).

The Bush administration submits the implementing legislation for the U.S.-Colombia FTA to Congress without first reaching an agreement with congressional leaders over the terms of the bill; the House of Representatives enacts a resolution denying the special protections of Trade Promotion Authority for the bill.

Draft modalities for the Doha Round negotiations on NAMA and agriculture are issued in December; a failed effort is made to call a ministerial negotiation based on these packages.


The U.S. Congress enacts a stimulus package (the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009) that includes controversial Buy American provisions.

The U.S. House of Representatives approves a climate-change bill (the American Clean Energy and Security Act of 2009, or ACES) that provides for the possible imposition of border taxes on countries that do not meet goals for the reduction in emissions of greenhouse gases. The bill goes nowhere in the Senate.


The Geneva Ministerial Conference of the WTO is held in a somber atmosphere, producing neither major advances nor disasters.

The Russian Federation completes its negotiations for accession to the WTO.

Congress approves the implementing legislation for FTAs with Colombia, Korea, and Panama.


The Obama administration proposes a major reorganization of U.S. trade agencies, requesting authority from Congress to consolidate six agencies into one.