One of the most heartening features of the post-war period has been the steady trend towards trade liberalisation, notably on the industrial tariff front. The momentum towards freer world trade was sustained in February 1975 when the seventh and most ambitious Round (known as the Tokyo Round) of international trade negotiations since 1947 started in Geneva under the auspices of GATT (the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade). Formally launched in Tokyo in September 1973 as a follow-up to the Kennedy Round of tariff reductions of the 1960s the fate of the trade talks hung in the balance for over a year as the U.S. Congress withheld approval of the necessary legislation (President Nixon’s Trade Bill) to provide the U.S. Administration with the authority to negotiate. Meanwhile the world economic situation had deteriorated — it became more sombre than at any time since the end of the last war, and certainly less favourable than the environment that accompanied the opening of the Kennedy Round in 1962. But the governments of the major trading countries were sufficiently alarmed at the prospect of a slide into protectionism1 so that as soon as the U.S. Trade Reform Act was finally enacted early in 1975 no time was lost in proceeding with the substantive trade negotiations. The complex bargaining process involving about ninety countries is likely to take about two and a half years to complete. It would be many more years before the resulting agreement is ratified by national legislatures. The set of agreed rules would then apply for several decades, or into the next century.
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