The Genesis of the GATT

By Petros C. Mavroidis, Douglas A. Irwin & Alan O. Sykes

{Cambridge University Press: 2008}

Winter 2009

The Genesis of the GATT, by Columbia Law School Professor Petros C. Mavroidis, Dartmouth College Professor Douglas A. Irwin, and Stanford Law School Professor Alan O. Sykes, discusses the economic logic behind the development of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT). It is the first in a series sponsored by The American Law Institute that explores the foundations of world trade law as found in the GATT and other World Trade Organization agreements.

The GATT, the immediate predecessor to the WTO, was created to reduce tariffs and other trade barriers and to develop a commercial agreement on trade practices among its affiliated countries. In their book, the authors examine what the historical record indicates about the GATT framers’ objectives, as well as how the provisions of the GATT evolved through international meetings and drafts. The book notes that the two main framers of the GATT were the United Kingdom and the United States, and that developing countries’ influence was noticeable only after the mid-1950s. The authors acknowledge that an underlying purpose of the GATT was to expand international trade, thereby promoting world prosperity and serving as a vehicle for maintaining world peace. However, the framers of the GATT were mindful of the costs of achieving such far-reaching objectives and were not willing to disproportionately allocate the costs of achieving them.

In this volume, Mavroidis, the Law School’s Edwin B. Parker Professor of Foreign & Comparative Law, Irwin, and Sykes set the stage for subsequent volumes that will delve deeper into the economic logic behind the GATT.

Photographed by Ian Allen