World Trade Organization

World Trade Organization (WTO)The World Trade Organization (WTO) was established in 1995, to provide a trade forum and to administer the world trade agreements approved at the end of negotiation rounds. Originally an ad hoc commission-style organization, since 1995 it has become one of the most important IGOs, despite being quite small, because of its importance in managing the world trading system. Currently, there are 159 nation members, which now include all major economies of the world, since the accession of China in 2001 and Russia in 2012. It is located in Geneva, Switzerland and is headed by Director-General Roberto Azevêdo.The WTO is driven by its member states, and all major decisions are made by members as a whole. Members are represented by government ministers, ambas – sadors, or delegates. The Secretariat of the WTO plays an integral function in terms of coordinating the activities of the member countries. The Secretariat is comprised of a staff of over 600, which includes experts in the areas of law, eco nomics, statistics, and communications. The Secretariat staff assist member nations in ensuring trade negotiations progress smoothly and that international trade rules are correctly applied and enforced. In particular, the WTO follows the Most-Favored Nation (MFN) clause, which requires all members to treat one another equally. In practice, this has several implications. First, countries cannot unilaterally retaliate against one another by raising tariffs. Since tariffs protect domestic industries and workers, and raise money for governments, this clause is important for preventing frequent tariff and quota adjustments. However, whatever the MFN rate or conditions are for various products and services, countries may reduce them further in trading bloc agreements, such as free trade agreements. Second, while broad exceptions may be negotiated, this requires consensus and an extensive amount of time. Third, because countries are often perceived to manipulate trade rules, countries often use organizational mechanisms to dispute the practices of other countries.The current round of negotiations is called the Doha Round, because the initial meeting was held in Doha, Qatar in 2001. While previous rounds increasingly focused on developed countries and issues surrounding services and intellectual property, the Doha Round was a result of developing countries expressing an interest in having more concessionary options. The Doha Round still has not been completed, because of disputes over protection of subsistence farmers in developing countries and the contention that agriculture in many developed countries is highly subsidized. A partial deal (called the Bali Package) was reached in the Ninth Ministerial Conference of the round in 2013. It provided highly concessionary terms towards agriculture in the least-developed countries, expanded assistance in meeting trade rules, and supplied a series of agreements to provide greater access to most developing countries, depending on their economic status. While the length of time taken to reach agreement had some critics wondering about the viability of the WTO, it is now hoped by WTO supporters that future negotiations will not be so contentious and long.Business and Global Governance 373

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