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World Trade Organization

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World Trade Organization


Trade Agreements, Negotiations, Disputes, Policies, Policy Issues

World Trade Organization


Main Address


Centre William Rappard,
Rue de Lausanne 154,
CH-1211 Geneva 21, Switzerland

Tel: (41-22) 739 51 11
Fax: (41-22) 731 42 06
email:   enquiries@wto.org


WTO Profile


The World Trade Organization is the only global international organization dealing with the rules of trade between nations. At its heart are the WTO agreements, negotiated and signed by the bulk of the world’s trading nations. The World Trade Organization came into being in 1995. One of the youngest of the international organizations, the WTO is the successor to the GATT (General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade) established in the wake of the Second World War.
So while the WTO is still young, the multilateral trading system that was originally set up under GATT is well over 50 years old. The past 50 years have seen an exceptional growth in world trade. Merchandise exports grew on average by 6% annually. Total trade in 2000 was 22-times the level of 1950. GATT and the WTO have helped to create a strong and prosperous trading system contributing to unprecedented growth.

The system was developed through a series of trade negotiations, or rounds, held under GATT. The first rounds dealt mainly with tariff reductions but later negotiations included other areas such as anti-dumping and non-tariff measures. The last round — the 1986-94 Uruguay Round — led to the creation of the World Trade Organization.

The World Trade Organization has more than 140 members, accounting for over 97% of world trade. Around 30 others are negotiating membership.



WTO Activities and Services of the WTO


The overriding objective of the World Trade Organization (WTO) is to help trade flow smoothly, freely, fairly and predictably.

It does this by:
- Administering trade agreements
- Acting as a forum for trade negotiations
- Settling trade disputes
- Reviewing national trade policies
- Assisting developing countries in trade policy issues, through technical assistance and training programmes
- Cooperating with other international organizations

Decisions are made by the entire membership. This is typically by consensus. A majority vote is also possible but it has never been used in the WTO, and was extremely rare under the WTO’s predecessor, GATT. The WTO’s agreements have been ratified in all members’ parliaments.

The top level decision-making body of the WTO is the WTO Ministerial Conference which meets at least once every two years.

Below this is the WTO General Council (normally ambassadors and heads of delegation in Geneva, but sometimes officials sent from members’ capitals) which meets several times a year in the Geneva headquarters. The WTO General Council also meets as the Trade Policy Review Body and the Dispute Settlement Body.

At the next level, the Goods Council, Services Council and Intellectual Property (TRIPS) Council report to the General Council.

Numerous specialized committees, working groups and working parties deal with the individual agreements and other areas such as the environment, development, membership applications and regional trade agreements.


Compare also:  OECD  |  Sarbanes-Oxley  |  IASB  |  FASB  |  Global Corporate Governance Forum



World Trade Organization WTO home page



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