Chapter 7: GATT/WTO Law and International Standards: An Example of Soft Law Instruments Hardening Up?
Melaku Geboye Desta* I. INTRODUCTION The World Trade Organization (WTO) has its roots in the General Agreement on Tariﬀs and Trade (GATT), an international agreement that was designed to facilitate international trade in goods by progressively reducing and, in many cases, eliminating national governmental measures that are restrictive of trade, which traditionally almost always meant import-restrictive measures. The GATT/WTO system has succeeded in reducing import tariﬀs in particular to such low levels that non-tariﬀ measures have now become the major remaining obstacles to international trade.1 This is a result of two interrelated developments: (1) with the reduction of tariﬀs, governments tend to resort to new non-tariﬀ barriers in order to keep a certain level of protection in place,2 while (2) the successful tariﬀ reductions also have the eﬀect of exposing old non-tariﬀ barriers, appropriately compared by Kahler to the ‘draining of a lake that * I wish to thank the editors of this volume, Andrea Bjorklund and August Reinisch, for their patience, understanding and encouragement throughout. I am also grateful to my colleagues in Dundee in general for taking an active part at a staﬀ seminar where I presented the paper, and Abba Kolo, Alistair Rieu-Clarke, Moshe Hirsch, Aloysius Gng and Vitaliy Pogoretskyy for helpful comments and suggestions on the draft. All errors of course remain my own. 1 Technical barriers have long been recognized as ‘the largest category of non-tariﬀ measures faced by exporters’. WTO, Technical Barriers to Trade: Technical Explanation, at
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