Trade has been at the forefront of human development. Back in the day, nations got introduced to foreign perspectives, methods and ways of doing things primarily through the people who arrived with the purpose of trading items. That lead to each nation adopting the most effective practices and encouraged improvement. However, being a trader was (and to some extent still is) a very dangerous profession. Long travels and no possibility of ensuring one’s safety caused major issues for valuable trade items and the people themselves. When the international relations among nations grew, this translated into governmental levels and so people started looking for ways to ensure safe and just trade process. This wish marks the beginning of World Trade Organization.
In fact, it all started from the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade in 1947, which was a legally-binding agreement between a large number of countries. Its intention was to promote even more effective and fast trade by eliminating tariffs and sanctions associated with importing and exporting goods. It functioned for 47 years and provided the so-needed framework for how international trade should be carried out.
World Trade Organization was founded in 1995, and this foundation marks the biggest development in how international trade is handled from World War II. On top of covering trading of goods as supervised by GATT, WTO also included services and intellectual property, the protection of which under international legal systems was unheard of up to that point. Frameworks for handling trade-related disputes were also established. Ever since then, WTO has been putting constant effort into reducing tariffs for trade with developing countries and making sure trade is fair on their end. As of now, it includes 164 members and supervises 98% of international trade.
The WTO focuses on these main aspects:
- Trade negotiations – every country wishing to join or keep being a member of WTO has to make sure their trade agreements and tariffs comply with the ones established by the organization and thought to be just internationally.
- Implementation and monitoring – transparency is among the biggest values of WTO. All member states must have their tariffs and trade agreements publicly accessible and they also must comply with the requirements of WTO.
- Dispute settlement – probably the most common function of WTO. Needless to say, disputes among member states occur, especially when new agreements are put in places. WTO steps in and enforces Dispute Settlement Understanding to make sure the conflict is solved justly. If the countries believe the documents infringes on their rights, they are free to appeal.
- Building trade capacity – this is at the forefront of all trade associated with the developing countries. WTO tries to make sure that no country is taken advantage of and that all possible trade options are being used by the developing countries by providing assistance with internal process structure and infrastructure.
- Outreach – WTO is in constant contact with non-governmental organizations, the public and the media representatives to make sure its work and goals are transparent and that everyone is aware of all the trade possibilities out there.