World Trade Organization (WTO) History, Objectives and Functions

10/02/2020 0 By indiafreenotes

World Trade Organization (WTO) is an international body established to oversee and regulate international trade. Founded in 1995 as the successor to the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT), the WTO aims to facilitate smooth, free, and predictable trade flows between its member countries. It provides a framework for negotiating trade agreements, a dispute resolution mechanism to enforce members’ adherence to WTO agreements, and a forum for trade negotiations and discussions. The organization’s primary goal is to ensure that trade flows as smoothly, predictably, and freely as possible, thereby contributing to economic growth and development worldwide. By promoting lower trade barriers and providing a platform for the resolution of trade disputes, the WTO helps to create a more open and equitable global trading system.

History of WTO:

World Trade Organization (WTO) was established on January 1, 1995, succeeding the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) that had been in operation since 1948. The creation of the WTO marked a significant evolution in international economic governance, reflecting the need for a more comprehensive and legally binding system to manage the complexities of international trade in the post-Cold War global economy.

The origins of the GATT can be traced back to the aftermath of World War II, when countries sought to rebuild their economies and establish a stable and predictable framework for international trade. The GATT was initially meant to be a temporary arrangement until the establishment of the International Trade Organization (ITO). However, the ITO never came into existence due to the failure of the United States to ratify the agreement, making the GATT the de facto framework for international trade.

Over nearly five decades, the GATT provided the rules for much of world trade and witnessed considerable liberalization, particularly through its trade negotiation rounds. The most notable of these was the Uruguay Round, conducted from 1986 to 1994, which led to the creation of the WTO. This round of negotiations was ambitious in its scope, addressing not only tariffs but also non-tariff barriers, agriculture, textiles, services, intellectual property, and the creation of a dispute settlement mechanism.

The establishment of the WTO brought several new dimensions to global trade governance, including the incorporation of trade in services and intellectual property rights into the multilateral trading system and the introduction of a more robust and legally binding dispute resolution mechanism. Today, the WTO remains the primary international body governing world trade, with a mandate to facilitate trade negotiations, solve trade disputes, and enforce adherence to WTO agreements among its member countries.

Objectives of WTO:

  • Promoting Free Trade:

Reduction of tariffs, elimination of import quotas, and dismantling of other trade barriers to facilitate smoother and freer flow of goods and services across international borders.

  • Ensuring Non-Discrimination:

Implementing the principle of non-discrimination through Most-Favored-Nation (MFN) status and national treatment, ensuring that each member country treats its trading partners equally and without prejudice.

  • Enhancing Predictability and Stability:

Providing a stable, predictable, and transparent trading environment by enforcing trade rules and commitments among member countries, thereby reducing the risk associated with international trade and investment.

  • Promoting Fair Competition:

Aiming to create a level playing field for all traders by establishing and enforcing rules on fair competition, including addressing subsidies, dumping, and other practices that distort the market.

  • Encouraging Development and Economic Reform:

Assisting developing and least-developed countries in their economic development through trade by providing them with technical assistance and support in building their trade capacity, as well as integrating them into the global economy.

  • Protecting the Environment:

Recognizing the importance of ensuring that environmental measures and trade policies are mutually supportive towards sustainable development, the WTO works towards promoting environmental protection alongside open trade.

  • Safeguarding the Interests of Developing Countries:

Ensuring that the needs and interests of developing countries are taken into account in WTO negotiations, aiming to enhance their trade opportunities and support their efforts to integrate into the global trading system.

  • Resolving Trade Disputes:

Providing a mechanism for the resolution of trade disputes among countries, thereby preventing conflict and retaliation in international trade relations.

Functions of WTO:

  • Administering WTO Trade Agreements:

The WTO is responsible for administering a collection of international trade agreements that set legal ground rules for international commerce. These agreements are negotiated and signed by the bulk of the world’s trading nations.

  • Serving as a Forum for Trade Negotiations:

The WTO provides a platform for negotiating trade agreements among its members. These negotiations cover various areas, including tariffs, subsidies, trade barriers, and other issues that impact international trade.

  • Handling Trade Disputes:

The WTO operates a comprehensive system for resolving disputes between countries over the interpretation and application of the agreements. By providing a structured process for settling disputes, the WTO helps ensure that trade flows smoothly and that trade rules are enforced.

  • Monitoring National Trade Policies:

A key function of the WTO is to review and monitor the trade policies and practices of its member countries. This transparency helps to ensure that trade policies are predictable and that they adhere to WTO agreements.

  • Technical Assistance and Training for Developing Countries:

The WTO offers technical assistance and training programs specifically designed for developing countries. These programs aim to help these countries build their trade capacity, understand WTO agreements, and comply with international trade rules.

  • Cooperation with Other International Organizations:

The WTO collaborates with other international and regional organizations to ensure a coherent global policy framework for trade and economic development. This includes working with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank to achieve greater economic stability and development.

  • Enhancing Transparency in Global Economic Policy-making:

Through its regular monitoring and reporting processes, the WTO promotes transparency and informed dialogue on trade and economic policy issues. This includes publishing a wide range of reports on global trade issues, economic research, and trade statistics.

  • Trade Facilitation:

The WTO works to simplify and standardize customs procedures among member countries through the Trade Facilitation Agreement (TFA). This agreement aims to expedite the movement, release, and clearance of goods, reduce costs, and improve efficiency in international trade.