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World Trade Organisation (WTO)

What is the WTO?

The WTO has evolved from the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT), which was originally established in 1947. There have been nine rounds of negotiations e.g. the 'Uruguay Round' that took place between 1986 and 1994. These negotiations were aimed at reducing tariffs for the facilitation of global trade on goods.

The WTO replaced GATT as the world's global trading body in 1995. The purpose of the WTO is to ensure that global trade is conducted freely. The WTO creates the legal framework for global trade among member nations in order to make the world trade easier and fairer. The new round of trade liberalisation talks started in the year 2000 and is ongoing.

Opponents of the WTO argue that as the WTO functions as a global authority on trade national sovereignty of member countries could be compromised. A country may have to sacrifice its own interests to avoid violating WTO agreements.


Further reading

For an excellent introduction to the WTO and the work they do, have a look at the 'What is the WTO' section of their web site. There is a useful guide - The WTO in brief, and a section looking at the 10 benefits of the WTO trading system. There is also a slide show about 50 years of work on the multilateral trading system that is well worth a look. For an excellent summary from the BBC site on the role of the WTO, go to What is the World Trade Organisation?


Success and failure of the WTO viewed from different perspectives

For this section, look at the range of views at the role of the WTO by following the links below.

Browse these two links and make a note of the most important points for each side of the debate.

New WTO members in the order in which they acceded:

1. Ecuador 12. Croatia
2. Bulgaria 13. Lithuania
3. Mongolia 14. Moldova
4. Panama 15. China
5. Kyrgyz Republic 16. Separate Customs Territory
of Taiwan, Penghu, Kinmen and
Matsu (Chinese Taipei)
6. Latvia 17. Armenia
7. Estonia 18. Former Yugoslav Republic
of Macedonia (FYROM)
8. Jordan 19. Nepal (LDC)
9. Georgia 20. Cambodia (LDC)
10. Albania 21. Saudi Arabia
11. Oman 22. Viet Nam
23. Tonga


For a complete list of WTO member countries see: