Edited by Padideh Ala’i and Robert G. Vaughn
Chapter 16: Transparency in international economic relations and the role of the WTO
The establishment of the World Trade Organization (WTO) in 1995 has transformed the consensus-based system of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT 1947) into a rule-based system, encompassing not only trade in goods (GATT 1994), but also trade in services (GATS) and trade–related aspects of intellectual property rights (TRIPS). As a result of this transformation, transparency of trade-related measures has become a central objective of the multilateral trading system, and trade disputes have focused increasingly on the transparency obligations of Member States under the WTO covered agreements. Transparency has become central to the mandate of the WTO as a result of the shift in focus of trade negotiations from the reduction of tariffs in the immediate post-World-War-II period to the reduction of non-tariff barriers (NTBs) starting in the 1960s, and finally, to the current focus on regulatory convergence and harmonization. Historically, trade disputes required that a respondent remove any legislative or executive measure in the form of a tariff, quota, or non-tariff barrier that constituted an impediment to cross-border transactions. Today, the WTO recognizes that many governmental measures, including judicial and administrative measures in a number of related spheres, may also constitute legitimate non-tariff barriers, as they are also integral to the workings of a regulatory state. Disputes now focus not only on the content of the measures, but also the extent to which the measures are administered or applied in a transparent or even-handed manner.
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