WTO Structure, Functions and Roles in the Current International Business Scenario13/03/2020
The establishment of the World Trade Organization (WTO) as the successor to ,the GATT on 1 January 1995 under the Marrakesh Agreement places the global trading system on a firm constitutional footing with the evolution of international economic legislation resulted through the Uruguay Round of GATT negotiations.
A remarkable feature of the Uruguay Round was that it paved the way for further liberalization of international trade with the fundamental shift from the negotiation approach to the institutional framework envisaged through transition from GATT to WTO Agreement.
The GATT 1947 and the WTO co-existed for the transitional period of one year in 1994. In January 1995, however, the WTO completely replaced the GATT. The membership of the WTO increased from 77 in 1995 to 127 by the end of 1996.
Structure of the World Trade Organization (WTO)
The organizational structure of the WTO is outlined in the Chart 1.
The Ministerial Conference (MC) is at the top of the structural organization of the WTO. It is the supreme governing body which takes ultimate decisions on all matters. It is constituted by representatives of (usually, Ministers of Trade) all the member countries.
The General Council (GC) is composed of the representatives of all the members. It is the real engine of the WTO which acts on behalf of the MC. It also acts as the Dispute Settlement Body as well as the Trade Policy Review Body.
There are three councils, viz.: the Council for Trade in Services and the Council for Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) operating under the GC. These councils with their subsidiary bodies carry out their specific responsibilities
Further, there are three committees, viz., the Committee on Trade and Development (CTD), the Committee on Balance of Payments Restrictions (CBOPR), and the Committee on Budget, Finance and Administration (CF A) which execute the functions assigned to them by e WTO Agreement and the GC.
The administration of the WTO is conducted by the Secretariat which is headed by the Director General (DG) appointed by the MC for the tenure of four years. He is assisted by the four Deputy Directors from different member countries. The annual budget estimates and financial statement of the WTO are presented by the DG to the CBFA for review and recommendations for the final approval by the GC.
Functions of the World Trade Organization (WTO)
The WTO consisting a multi-faced normative framework: comprising institutional substantive and implementation aspects.
The major functions of the WTO are as follows:
- To lay-down a substantive code of conduct aiming at reducing trade barriers including tariffs and eliminating discrimination in international trade relations.
- To provide the institutional framework for the administration of the substantive code which encompasses a spectrum of norms governing the conduct of member countries in the arena of global trade.
- To provide an integrated structure of the administration, thus, to facilitate the implementation, administration and fulfillment of the objectives of the WTO Agreement and other Multilateral Trade Agreements.
- To ensure the implementation of the substantive code.
- To act as a forum for the negotiation of further trade liberalization.
- To cooperate with the IMF and WB and its associates for establishing a coherence in trade policy-making.
- To settle the trade-related disputes.
Features of the WTO
The distinctive features of the WTO are:
(i) It is a legal entity
(ii) World Bank (WB) it is not an agent of the United Nations.
(iii) Unlike the IMF and the World Bank, there is no weighted voting, but all the WTO members have equal rights.
(iv) Unlike the GATT, the agreements under the WTO are permanent and binding to the member countries.
(v) Unlike the GATT, the WTO dispute settlement system is based not on dilatory but automatic mechanism. It is also quicker and binding on the members. As such, the WTO is a powerful body.
(vi) Unlike the GATT, the WTOs approach is rule- based and time-bound.
(vii) Unlike the GATT, the WTOs have a wider coverage. It covers trade in goods as well as services.
(viii) Unlike the GATT, the WTOs have a focus on trade-related aspects of intellectual property rights and several other issues of agreements.
(ix) Above all, the WTO is a huge organizational body with a large secretariat.
Objectives of the WTO
The purposes and objectives of the WTO are spelled out in the preamble to the Marrakesh Agreement.
In a nutshell, these are:
- To ensure the reduction of tariffs and other barriers to trade.
- To eliminate discriminatory treatment in international trade relations.
- To facilitate higher standards of living, full employment, a growing volume of real income and effective demand, and an increase in production and trade in goods and services of the member nations.
- To make positive effect, which ensures developing countries, especially the least developed secure a level of share in the growth of international trade that reflects the needs of their economic development.
- To facilitate the optimal use of the world’s resources for sustainable development.
- To promote an integrated, more viable and durable trading system incorporating all the resolutions of the Uruguay Round’s multilateral trade negotiations.
Above all, to ensure that linkages trade policies, environmental policies with sustainable growth and development are taken care of by the member countries in evolving a new economic order.