The EU Under GATS and RTAs
Globalisation is a fact and one can see its effects particularly well in trade. For almost seventy years, trade liberalisation, which can be defined for present purposes as ‘a process introducing greater market openness and a competitive market environment’ through legally binding obligations, has been a key element of foreign trade policy for almost all of the world’s nations. Although some question the net gains from trade (and especially the redistributive effects), it is undisputable that political leaders have taken the trade liberalisation route. Since the 1940s, international cooperation has led to the global reduction of tariff barriers through subsequent negotiating rounds in the context of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade or GATT 1947. In 1994, the Uruguay Round of negotiations culminated in the establishment of the World Trade Organization (WTO). Moreover, in parallel with multilateralism, a wave of bi- and plurilateral trade agreements highlight the perceived importance of trade liberalisation at a time in which the WTO is facing one of the most difficult periods in its existence, exemplified by the gridlocked negotiations in the Doha Round.