GATT as a Public Institution: The Uruguay Round and Beyond

Brook. Journal of International Law, Vol. 18, p. 31, 1992

55 Pages Posted: 14 May 2009

Date Written: 1992


As the GATT-MTN system develops, the institutions at its core become ever more complex. The Uruguay Round (Round) -- the broadest and most complex round of trade negotiations in GATT's history -- will heap unprecedented responsibilities on the system, requiring greater institutional development than ever before. Some of the necessary innovations may be agreed upon in the final stages of the Round itself. Many of them, however, will of necessity be dealt with in subsequent negotiations, or will simply evolve through practice, consistent with GATT tradition. This article presents a theoretical framework designed to structure and inform analysis of these broad institutional issues. It then reviews the major institutional contributions of the Round to date and offers suggestions for the future.

Most discussions of GATT as an institution -- particularly those relating to rule-making, dispute settlement, enforcement and similar processes -- are organized around dichotomies, opposing conceptions of the process or the institution. Two dichotomies dominate the literature. The most common is legalism vs. pragmatism. The other is John Jackson's distinction between rule-oriented and power-oriented procedures and diplomacy. These dichotomies are roughly parallel in their views of GATT rule-making, dispute settlement, and enforcement. In this article I propose an additional dichotomy for thinking about GATT institutional issues, the dichotomy between institutions and procedures designed to serve the public interest and those designed to serve private interests. My major thesis is that GATT is, or is becoming, a public institution with public functions. This status has broad implications for a wide range of institutional issues.

Keywords: International law, GATT, Trade

Suggested Citation

Abbott, Kenneth Wayne, GATT as a Public Institution: The Uruguay Round and Beyond (1992). Brook. Journal of International Law, Vol. 18, p. 31, 1992. Available at SSRN:

Kenneth Wayne Abbott (Contact Author)

Arizona State University ( email )

Box 877906
Tempe, AZ 85287-7906
United States
480-965-5917 (Phone)

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