Article X of GATT (1994, Publication and Administration of Trade Regulations) contains two central principles for the international trading system: transparency of existing trade regulations, and uniform application of these regulations.
The transparency provision of Article X.1 requires that trade-relevant information should be published in such a manner as to be accessible to third parties. Coverage of Article X.1 extends to laws, regulations, rulings and judicial decisions of general application. Article X.2 further stipulates that rules can only be enforced if they were published prior to application.
Article X.3(a) requires that all WTO Members administer all laws, regulations, rulings and judicial decisions in a uniform, impartial and reasonable manner. Article X.3(b) stipulates that every member should have in place tribunals and procedures that allow for the review and correction of administrative actions.
Relevance of GATT Article X
GATT Article X aims at enhancing transparency and good governance. Information on and knowledge of the regulations and rules in place ameliorate the conditions under which traders and operators engage. They can take their business decisions and plan their operations based on this information. Access to accurate information also reduces opportunities for corruption and the maintenance of outdated practices, in particular if administrative decisions can be challenged in a neutral appeal system. Compliance by traders and operators is more likely.
In reality, however, access to this trade-relevant information is not easy. Official publication of legislation is available in print only and is not widely circulated. Often the publication lags behind in time, and information on revisions or new regulations is not given well in advance of their application. Small businesses and traders from small economies are particular impacted by this, as they cannot rely on a network of overseas trade missions and trade representatives.
The Article also addresses uncertainty about how a country will apply their regulations and rules. GATT Article X.3(a) provides the possibility to challenge the application of these rules and regulations, in particular with regard to Customs administration. It therefore complements the transparency provision and protects traders from discrimination and discretionary treatment.