The 10th World Trade Organisation (WTO) Ministerial Conference scheduled for December 15 to 18 this year will be the first one held in the continent since the organization was established in 1995.
But even as the global conference takes place in a developing country, a majority of the people are yet to understand not only the significance of the event but also the meaning of the WTO.
The WTO simply deals with rules of trade between nations at a global or new global level. However there is more to it than that. Here are a three basic ways of looking at WTO.
WTO is simply a negotiating forum
Essentially, the WTO is a place where member governments go to sort out the trade problems they face with each other. The first step is to talk. The WTO was born out of negotiations, and everything the WTO does is the result of negotiations.
WTO is a set of rules
At its heart are the WTO agreements, negotiated and signed by the bulk of the world’s trading nations. These documents provide the legal ground-rules for international commerce. They are essentially contracts, binding governments to keep their trade policies within agreed limits. Although negotiated and signed by governments, the goal is to help producers of goods and services, exporters, and importers conduct their business, while allowing governments to meet social and environmental objectives. It also means ensuring that individuals, companies and governments know what the trade rules are around the world, and giving them the confidence that there will be no sudden changes of policy.
And finally, WTO helps to settle disputes
This is a third important side to the WTO’s work. Trade relations often involve conflicting interests. Agreements, including those painstakingly negotiated in the WTO system, often need interpreting. The most harmonious way to settle these differences is through some neutral procedure based on an agreed legal foundation. That is the purpose behind the dispute settlement process written into the WTO agreements.
The World Trade Organization began life on 1 January 1995 and as of August 24, 2012, the organizations had 157 governments as members.