The GATT came into force on January 1, 1948. From the beginning, it was refined, which eventually led to the creation, on 1 January 1995, of the World Trade Organization (WTO), which absorbed and expanded it. To date, 125 nations signed its agreements, which covered about 90% of world trade. When the Dillon cycle went through the laborious process of collective bargaining by post, it became clear, well before the end of the cycle, that a more comprehensive approach was needed to address the emerging challenges arising from the creation of the European Economic Community (EEC) and EFTA, as well as to make Europe a major international distributor in general. To achieve these objectives, GATT plans to sign agreements to substantially reduce tariffs and other trade barriers, as well as to eliminate discriminatory treatment in international trade on the basis of reciprocity and reciprocal benefits. The agreement provides for a number of rights and obligations (or codes of conduct) that must be respected by the signatory countries (the parties) as well as mechanisms for resolving the controversy. In particular, the GATT serves as a framework for the organisation of general rounds of negotiations between Member States. Eight such rounds took place and the last, the Uruguay Round, began in September 1986 in Punta del Este (Uruguay). This round culminated in April 1994, after a slow and laborious negotiation process that enabled the United States and the European Union to reach an agreement on agricultural production and trade policy. Although the results of this round have been below the initial objectives, significant progress has been made, taking into account the resurgence of protectionism and trade-distorting practices in recent years, particularly in industrialized countries. It is interesting to note that Colombia clung to the GATT in 1981. Agriculture has been essentially excluded from previous agreements, as it has been granted special status in the areas of import quotas and export subsidies, with slight reserves.
However, at the time of the Uruguay Round, many countries considered the agricultural exception so egregious that they refused to sign a new no-move agreement for agricultural products. These fourteen countries were known as the “Cairns Group” and consisted mainly of small and medium-sized agricultural exporters such as Australia, Brazil, Canada, Indonesia and New Zealand.