Back to Table of Contents


Steps in the Accession Process



Joining the GATT is rarely a simple or straightforward matter --especially if the acceding country's trade and economic systems are incompatible with GATT norms l based on the operation of price-based market forces. Countries acceding to GATT do so under provisions of Article 33. The actual process involves a series of steps, usually spanning several years:

Step 1. Formal request for membership submitted to the GATT Secretariat, which then informally sounds out a number of members on the likelihood of the applicant country's acceptability.

Step 2. Consideration by GATT Council.

Step 3. If the application is accepted by the GATT Council, the Director-General appoints a chairman of a Working Party --composed of representatives of the applicant country and interested GATT members --to examine the GA TT compatibility of the applicant's economic and trade regime.

Step 4. The applicant country submits a memorandum to the GATT Secretariat describing in detail its economic and trade system.

Step 5. GATT members respond to the applicant country's memorandum, usually with requests for clarification, additional facts, or information on its future intentions.

Step 6. After the initial question/response exchange, GATT members seeking further clarification or more detailed explanations submit follow-on requests to the applicant country.

Step 7. Once Working Party meetings begin, GATT members seek to determine the compatibility of the applicant country's trading system with individual GATT rules and requirements. The applicant is then expected to bring any inconsistent practices into compliance with GATT , or else to justify them under one or more of the temporary exceptions allowed by GATT.

Step 8. At the conclusion of its examination, the Working Party may conclude & either (a) that the applicant country should accede to membership under terms of a "standard" protocol or (b), if compatibility of its economic and trade system has not been demonstrated, that the accession protocol must provide certain guarantees to GATT members until the acceding country's trade system has been modified to comply with GATT rules.

Step 9. Bilateral negotiations are conducted with individual GATT members on a schedule of concessions by the applicant country --usually tariff reductions and bindings --as its "entry fee" for GATT membership. Negotiations normally take place simultaneously with the Working Party examination.

Step 10. Once agreement is reached with all parties, the results of bilateral negotiations are compiled into consolidated schedule of concessions which, along with the draft protocol of accession, is appended to the Working Party report and presented to the GATT Council for approval

Step 11. Following Council approval, GATT members are asked to vote on acceptability of the acceding country. If two-thirds of the members vote in favor, the ...acceding country becomes a GATT member 30 days after formally notifying the Director General of its acceptance of the protocol of accession.