The precursor to the WTO was the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) which sought to address issues related to international trade in goods. The operation of the GATT over the years resulted in lowering of tariffs in general in international trade.
As a result, increasingly, other domestic policies of nations came into focus of the trading nations. The developed countries, including the United States started facing increasing competition in manufactured exports from Newly Industrializing Countries (NICs) of Asia. For intellectual property issues in general, the negotiators were required to “clarify GATT provisions and elaborate as appropriate new rules and disciplines” in order to reduce distortions and impediments to international trade.
As technology became more important in goods and commodities, having higher proportion of invention and design (intellectual creativity) in their value, IPR became important in international trade. As a result, in the Uruguay Round negotiations, the intellectual property rights dominated the discussions.