Trade Organization (WTO) 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 and ratified in
their parliaments. The goal is to help producers of goods and services,
exporters, and importers conduct their business.
Is it a bird, is it a plane?
There are a number of ways of looking at the WTO. It's an organization for
liberalizing trade. It's a forum for governments to negotiate trade agreements.
It's a place for them to settle trade disputes. It operates a system of trade
rules. (But it's not Superman, just in case anyone thought it could solve -- or
cause -- all the world's problems!)
Above all, it's a negotiating forum ...
Essentially, the WTO is a place where member governments go, to try to sort
out the trade problems they face with each other. The first step is to talk. The
WTO was born out of negotiations, and everything the WTO does is the result of
negotiations. The bulk of the WTO's current work comes from the 1986-94
negotiations called the Uruguay Round and earlier negotiations under the General
Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT). The WTO is currently the host to new
negotiations, under the "Doha Development Agenda" launched in 2001.
Where countries have faced trade barriers and wanted them lowered, the
negotiations have helped to liberalize trade. But the WTO is not just about
liberalizing trade, and in some circumstances its rules support maintaining
trade barriers -- for example to protect consumers or prevent the spread of
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