Trade Trouble-Shooting

September 5, 1986

Report Outline
Putting Trade Troubles on Gatt Table
Almost 40 Years on the Tariff Patrol
The ‘Growth Round’ of Trade Talks
Special Focus

Putting Trade Troubles on Gatt Table

Most of the world's trading nations will sit down this month in an effort to remove obstacles to free trade. The 92 members of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT), the 38-year-old treaty that has governed international trade since World War II, are seeking ways to remove trade barriers and broaden the treaty's coverage. But the prospects are dim that the new round of talks—optimistically referred to as the “Growth Round”—will live up to its ambitious name. After seven months of preparatory negotiations at GATT headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland, member nations could not even agree on an agenda for the round, which is set to convene Sept. 15 in Punta del Este, Uruguay.

The reason is clear: While everyone supports free trade and fair trade in theory, the two do not always go hand in hand. One nation's “level playing field”—a common definition of fairness in trade—is grossly tilted in another country's eyes. These differences in perception are most pronounced in trading relations between the industrial nations, with their advanced economies, and the developing countries of the Third World, which are struggling to enter the industrial age.

In the United States, the prospect of the new round of talks has sparked a variety of reactions. For its part, the Reagan administration has been talking tougher on trade. After instituting trade violation actions against several countries, the administration concluded several 11th-hour bilateral agreements this summer, providing its trading partners with a clue as to where the United States will bend and where it will refuse to budge at the negotiating table. Issues that are expected to be high on the agenda include proposals to tighten GATT rules relating to farm and textile trade and a push to bring trade in services under GATT jurisdiction for the first time.

ISSUE TRACKER for Related Reports
United States and Foreign Trade
Jul. 16, 2021  U.S. Trade Policy
Sep. 13, 2013  U.S. Trade Policy
Jun. 07, 1996  Rethinking NAFTA
Jan. 29, 1993  U.S. Trade Policy
Dec. 08, 1989  North America Trade Pact: a Good Idea?
Sep. 05, 1986  Trade Trouble-Shooting
Mar. 04, 1983  Global Recession and U.S. Trade
Jan. 12, 1979  Trade Talks and Protectionism
Dec. 16, 1977  Job Protection and Free Trade
May 14, 1976  International Trade Negotiations
Dec. 06, 1961  Revision of Trade and Tariff Policy
Mar. 21, 1960  European Trade Blocs and American Exports
Jan. 30, 1958  Foreign Trade Policy
Jul. 28, 1954  Foreign Trade and the National Interest
Jan. 25, 1940  Tariff Reciprocity and Trade Agreements
Jun. 11, 1935  Foreign Trade Policy of the United States
Jan. 25, 1934  Foreign Trade and Currency Stability
Nov. 01, 1930  Foreign Trade of the United States
Sep. 27, 1923  Combining for the Import Trade
General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT)