Multilateral Trade Bargaining: A First Look at the GATT Bargaining Records

This paper empirically examines recently declassified tariff bargaining data from the GATT/WTO. Focusing on the Torquay Round (1950–1951), we document stylized facts about these interconnected high-stakes international negotiations that suggest a lack of strategic behavior among the participating governments and an important multilateral element to the bilateral bargains. We suggest that these features can be understood as emerging from a tariff bargaining forum that emphasizes the GATT pillars of MFN and multilateral reciprocity, and we offer evidence that the relaxation of strict bilateral reciprocity facilitated by the GATT multilateral bargaining forum was important to the success of the GATT approach.