Negotiating the reduction or elimination of obstacles to trade (import tariffs, other barriers to trade) and agreeing on rules governing the conduct of international trade (e.g. antidumping, subsidies, product standards, etc.)
Administering and monitoring the application of the WTO's agreed rules for trade in goods, trade in services, and trade-related intellectual property rights.
Monitoring and reviewing the trade policies of members, as well as ensuring transparency of regional and bilateral trade agreements.
Settling disputes among members regarding the interpretation and application of the agreements.
The WTO's predecessor, the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT), was established after World War II in the wake of other new multilateral institutions dedicated to international economic cooperation - notably the Bretton Woods institutions known as the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund.
A comparable international institution for trade, named the International Trade Organization was successfully negotiated.
The ITO was to be a United Nations specialized agency and would address not only trade barriers but other issues indirectly related to trade, including employment, investment, restrictive business practices, and commodity agreements.
But the ITO treaty was not approved by the United States and a few other signatories and never went into effect
The GATT was the only multilateral instrument governing international trade from 1948 until the WTO was established in 1995.
Despite attempts in the mid 1950s and 1960s to create some form of institutional mechanism for international trade, the GATT continued to operate for almost half a century as a semi-institutionalized multilateral treaty regime on a provisional basis.
Seven rounds of negotiations occurred under the GATT.
The first GATT trade rounds concentrated on further reducing tariffs.
Then, the Kennedy Round in the mid-sixties brought about a GATT anti-dumping Agreement and a section on development.
The Tokyo Round during the seventies was the first major attempt to tackle trade barriers that do not take the form of tariffs, and to improve the system, adopting a series of agreements on non-tariff barriers, which in some cases interpreted existing GATT rules, and in others broke entirely new ground.
Because these plurilateral agreements were not accepted by the full GATT membership, they were often informally called "codes".
Several of these codes were amended in the Uruguay Round, and turned into multilateral commitments accepted by all WTO members.
In response to the problems identified in the 1982 Ministerial Declaration (structural deficiencies, spill-over impacts of certain countries' policies on world trade GATT could not manage etc.), the eighth GATT round — known as the Uruguay Round — was launched in September 1986, in Punta del Este, Uruguay.
It was the biggest negotiating mandate on trade ever agreed: the talks were going to extend the trading system into several new areas, notably trade in services and intellectual property, and to reform trade in the sensitive sectors of agriculture and textiles; all the original GATT articles were up for review.
The Final Act concluding the Uruguay Round and officially establishing the WTO regime was signed during the April 1994 ministerial meeting at Marrakesh, Morroco and hence is known as the Marrakesh Agreement.
Association of nations at a governmental level to promote trade within the block and defend its members against global competition.
Defense against global competition is obtained through established tariffs on goods produced by member states, import quotas, government subsidies, heavy bureaucratic import processes, and technical and other non-tariff barriers.
Founded in 1951 by six neighboring states as the European Coal and Steel Community (ECSC).
Evolved into the European Economic Community, then the European Community and, in 1992, was finally transformed into the European Union.
Regional block with the largest number of members states 27.
These include Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, The Netherlands, and the United Kingdom.
Members: Canada, Mexico, and the United States of America.
Goals: Eliminate trade barriers among member states, promote conditions for free trade, increase investment opportunities, and protect intellectual property rights.
Population of over 445 million.
GDP (PPP) US$16.2 trillion (NaftaNow 2007 est.)
Other regional trade blocks, regional economic partnerships and free trade associations
ANDEAN (Andean Community Countries) – Bolivia, Colombia, Ecuador, and Peru. Associate Members: Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Paraguay, and Uruguay. Observer Countries: Mexico and Panama. BSEC (Organization of the Black Sea Economic Cooperation) – Albania, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Bulgaria, Georgia, Hellenic Republic, Moldova, Romania, Russian Federation, Serbia, Turkey, and Ukraine. CARICOM (Caribbean Community) – Antigua & Barbuda, The Bahamas, Barbados, Belize, Dominica, Grenada, Guyana, Haiti, Jamaica, Montserrat, Saint Kitts & Nevis, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent & The Grenadines, Surinam, and Trinidad & Tobago.
Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyz, Moldova, Russia, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Ukraine, Uzbekistan. COMESA (Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa) Burundi, Comoros, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Djibouti, Egypt, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Kenya, Libya, Madagascar, Malawi, Mauritius, Rwanda, Seychelles, Sudan, Swaziland, Uganda, Zambia,
ECOWAS (Economic Community of West African States) Benin, Burkina Faso, Cape Verde, The Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Guinea Bissau, Ivory Coast, Liberia, Mali, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal, Sierra Leone, and Togo.
GCC (Gulf Cooperation Council) – Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates (UAE)
MEFTA (Middle East Free Trade Area)
Countries which have signed Free Trade Agreements (FTAs), Trade and Investment Framework Agreements (TIFAs), or receive active U.S. support for WTO accession include Algeria, Bahrain, Egypt, Iraq, Israel, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Morocco, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Tunisia, United Arab Emirates, and Yemen.
SAARC (South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation) Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka. SADC (Southern Africa Development Community) Angola, Botswana, Democratic Republic of Congo, Lesotho, Madagascar, Malawi, Mauritius, Mozambique, Namibia, Seychelles, South Africa, Swaziland, Tanzania, Zambia, and Zimbabwe.
EFTA (European Free Trade Association) –Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway, and Switzerland.