Since all labelling rules can impede free trade, international trade law only allows for national labelling requirements that serve legitimate purposes. This section looks at those that can be. The General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) was the first multilateral free trade agreement. It first entered into force in 1948 as an agreement between 23 countries and remained in force until 1995, when its membership increased to 128 countries. It has been replaced by the World Trade Organization. Gatt was created to create rules to end or restrict the most costly and undesirable features of the pre-war protectionist period, namely quantitative barriers to trade such as trade controls and quotas. The agreement also provided for a system for the settlement of trade disputes between nations, and the framework allowed for a series of multilateral negotiations aimed at eliminating tariff barriers. Gatt was considered a significant success in the post-war years. The TRIPS Treaty quickly became controversial because it would disempower emerging economies to protect the health and well-being of their citizens just to preserve the patent rights (i.e. profits) of multinational pharmaceutical companies. As a result, Members of the 2001 WTO Ministerial Conference in Doha, Qatar, adopted the “Doha Declaration on the TRIPS Agreement and Public Health”. This declaration reaffirms that the TRIPS Agreement provides for flexibility between Member States to circumvent patent rights in order to protect public health in the event of a national emergency or other circumstances of extreme urgency (each Member State may determine what may be permissible on the basis of its own criteria). The General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT), signed in October.
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