chapter  8
The International Legal Framework: The General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade
WithStephen D. Cohen, Joel R. Paul, Robert A. Blecker
Pages 11

Among the fundamental international norms that govern world trade is the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT), the basic framework for international trade in goods. Originally, GATT was a part of the charter of the International Trade Organization (ITO). While the ITO was being negotiated, the United States proposed that the parties agree to an interim protocol that would give effect to the GATT rules within the charter. One of the perplexing issues raised by GATT is its legal status. Clearly, for purposes of international law, the GATT is a treaty binding the United States and all the contracting parties to its provisions. The status of GATT under domestic or national law is less clear. The GATT's language is especially vague, obtuse, and technical. Its thirty-eight articles and multiple annexes and codes are considered almost unreadable, but the most fundamental obligations of GATT are clear. The GATT provides the framework for conducting trading relations among signatory countries.