GATT, WTO and NAFTA: Landscape of Relationships and Opportunities

September 01, 1997

Introduction/Preview
The word “landscape” was intentionally chosen for the title of this article. It means vista or prospect, or a distant view of the scenery.  That is what will be captured here: a picture of the terrain created by GATT, WTO and NAFTA that lies ahead for North American businesses, and the vista or prospect various businesses face as a result of it.  Who will be the winners? The losers?  What sectors and industries will feel most the impact of the Uruguay Round agreements and NAFTA, and what strategies will our clients be devising to confront the trade landscape of North America in the century ahead?

This article will begin by examining the origins and legal framework of GATT and NAFTA and their structural relationship.  A brief section will describe the establishment of the WTO as the successor to GATT.  Next the fundamental provisions of GATT and NAFTA will be surveyed with particular emphasis on GATT (WTO) provisions that have important implications for NAFTA, and areas of both agreements that proved to be disappointments or that are still being negotiated.

In addition, the article will address the business ramifications of both agreements for North American businesses including an analysis of key business sectors, how the impact of the Agreements will be felt and how businesses are creating strategies for the trade environment of the future in North America. Finally, the conclusion will discuss future developments—such as the addition of new party countries to NAFTA or the conclusion of new bilateral trade agreements—that may have an effect on North American businesses.

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