MARRAKECH, Morocco — Trade ministers from 109 nations formally signed Friday what has been called the most sweeping trade liberalization accord in modern economic history.
The pact still requires ratification, however, by the individual countries. In the United States, strong debate over how to make up for the revenue shortfalls from decreased tariffs is clouding the timetable for Congressional consideration. Ministers from industrialized nations, however, expressed confidence here that the accords can go into effect with the start of next year.
“All countries are winners,” Peter Sutherland, GATT director general, told reporters after he formally closed the Uruguay Round. The accord, the result of seven years of tough negotiations, will reduce trade barriers worldwide for goods and services worth billions of dollars, including textiles and apparel. It also sets in place the World Trade Organization, a less cumbersome mechanism to replace GATT for resolving trade disputes.
A total of 109 ministers signed off on the round and 97 initialed the agreement to set up the World Trade Organization, the body which will supercede the GATT. Most of the remaining nations are expected to sign in the next few months.