World Trade

World Trade

World Trade Law Resources

The World Trade Organization (WTO) first entered into force as the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) in January of 1948 as a multilateral instrument for 123 governments. Its main objective was to liberalize international trade and place it on a secure basis. After the 1993 Uruguay round, GATT became WTO. WTO Headquarters are in Geneva.

The authoritative bodies of the WTO are:

  • Session of Contracting Parties, which meets once a year and comprises senior officials from the 123 member governments.
  • Council of Representatives, which meets between the meetings of the session about 9 times a year on routine and urgent matters.
  • Specialist Standing Committees, which meet regularly to discuss and negotiate the various aspects of international trade polices.

Official Publications of the WTO

The WTO is very consistent in publishing their documents. Most of the documents are published in the official sources listed below, making research in the WTO relatively straight-forward. However, some WTO documents are published slowly (up to 10 years behind) or not at all. It is important to realize that these documents remain unpublished and cannot be found anywhere.

Basic Instruments & Selected Documents (BISD). 1952-1969. Volumes one through four cover the text of the Agreement; the amendments to the General Agreement which have become effective since November 1958; decisions, declarations, resolutions, rulings and reports of working parties. Many major GATT sources are published in the BISD or the BISD Supplement, also available on the ILS CD-Rom terminal.

Basic Instruments and Selected Documents (BISD). Supplement. 1953-. This supplement to the Basic Instruments and Selected Documents contains decisions, conclusions and reports and comes out annually and is also available on the ILS CD-Rom terminal.

GATT and WTO Documents [Microfiche] 1960-1996. Aside from the BISD, the WTO/GATT also publishes documents in microfiche form. These documents are indexed by the List and Index of Documents Issued described below. Law School:Mic K4602.G37 (Drawers 419-422)

The Document Dissemination Facility (DDF) contains all publicly available documents distributed by the WTO since its creation in January 1995. Can be searched full-text or using document number.

Law and practice under the GATT. 1987- . This loose-leaf publication is a collection of documents and commentaries on basic constitutive and interpretative texts of the system; materials on the implementation of the Tokyo Round negotiations (1973-1979), and Uruguay Round negotiations (1986-).
Law and practice of the World Trade Organization. 1995. The first volume of a multi-volume treatise on Law and Practice of the WTO contains the entire official text of the Marrakesh Declaration, the Marrakesh Agreement establishing the WTO, GATT 1944, the Uruguay Round Agreement, and the Plurilateral Trade Agreements. Additional volumes will contain the decisions of the dispute settlement panels and commentaries on Uruguay Round provisions.

WTO Focus, 1995- . Comes out every two months, contains information on new WTO developments and activities. Unfortunately very slow publication. Continuation of GATT Focus, 1981- .

GATT Activities In….1969-1995. Annual publication. Has texts of trade agreements made in that particular year, discusses accession matters and trade policy review mechanisms. New publications on GATT, legal statutes of the most important agreements as well as the information on GATT membership and officers are available in annexes published in the back of every issue. This publication is continued starting in 1997 by the WTO Annual Report.

World Trade Organization Press Release. Another weekly periodical on the WTO, contains information on a great variety of issues related to the on-going life of the WTO. Continuation of GATT Press Communique.

GATT/WTO News. 1994- .News of the Uruguay Round of Multilateral Trade Negotiations. Comes out weekly.

Trade Policy Review… For a number of countries and organizations, the WTO publishes annual trade policy reviews. Check HOLLIS for individual reports. For example, Trade Policy Review, Dominican Republic and Trade Policy Review, European Union.

Finding WTO Documents

Analytical Index: Guide to GATT Law and Practice. 1995. This two-volume set provides a guide to the interpretation and application of the GATT from its official documentary sources. The material covers the preamble of the General Agreement, its thirty-nine articles, Part IV, provisional application of the GATT, as well as the institutional and decision-making practice of the GATT. It includes an appendix and index.

List and Index of Documents Issued. 1981- .List and Index is published in both print and fiche. It’s arranged in four parts: by subject, by country, by articles of the main legal instruments and by products. The documents indexed are found in the GATT Documents microfiche collection described above. Note that some GATT documents listed are actually ‘unpublished’. Unfortunately, this is not noted in the List. It is only discovered upon looking at the fiche and finding either a note on the fiche marker or actual fiche that is marked through and illegible. These documents are not officially available anywhere.

Status of Legal Instruments. 1971- . This publication supersedes the Status of Multilateral Protocols of 1955 and 1964. Like the past issue this edition is presented in loose-leaf form and provides up-dating of relevant material. The present volume represents a compilation of signatures affixed, receipt of instruments of ratification, accession, acceptance, successions and withdrawals. It contains the following indexes: Numerical Index of Instruments, Subject Index of Instruments, Alphabetical List of Contracting Parties and Schedule Numbers, and the Chronological List of Contracting Parties.

Other Sources on the WTO

The WTO Dispute Settlement Reports, 1996- . An official WTO publication, it includes Panel and Appellate Body reports, as well as arbitration Awards, in disputes concerning the rights and obligations of WTO Members under the provisions of the Marrakesh Agreement Establishing the World Trade Organization. The Dispute Settlement Reports is available in English, French and Spanish.

Pescatore, Pierre. Handbook of GATT Dispute Settlement. .Two-volume, loose-leaf publication in which Professor Pescatore analyzes the complete set of the GATT decisions in the field of dispute settlement. He establishes the secondary law on dispute settlement, the data on the panel reports, the summaries, the key-words and the excerpts as well as the different indexes: chronological, alphabetical, by articles, by countries and by panel members names. The publication is updated annually.

The Results of the Uruguay Round of Multilateral Trade Negotiations: The Legal Texts. This publication contains the texts of each of the agreements reached at the conclusion of the Uruguay Round in December 1993 and related decisions taken at the same time and those taken later at Marrakesh in April of 1994.

The Texts Of The Tokyo Round Agreements/GATT 1986. This publication presents the texts of the Tokyo Round codes and the framework agreements. ILS RR K 4603 1973.A4x

WTO via the Internet

  • The WTO Home Page at home page covers the following areas: About the WTO, Press Releases, Trade Policy Reviews, The Uruguay Round, International Trade, Trade and Environment, Publications and WTO Membership. It also has information on the latest WTO Ministerial Conference s including NGO Registration.
  • U.S. Department of Commerce’s International Trade Administration Home Page at This page might also be useful in providing WTO information.

WTO Lexis and Westlaw

In LEXIS dispute settlement documents related to the WTO/GATT can be found by putting “World Trade Organization Dispute Settlement” in the source box. This will point to all files including the panel reports, appellate body reports and arbitrator’s reports and mutually acceptable solutions published since January 1, 1996 (the file contains only those documents made by the WTO). For earlier reports you must enter “GATT Panel and World Trade Decisions” in the source box, this will give you reports back to 1948. Using the source directory you can choose the legal topic “International Trade” and then choose “Treaties and International Agreements” to find all the GATT/WTO agreements.

In Westlaw, the GATT database contains WTO/GATT documents including the final text of the GATT Uruguay Round Agreements. Released World Trade Organization Panel Decisions are in this database.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *