The WTO

The World Trade Organization (WTO) is an international organization with 153 member countries working together for the purpose of liberalizing world trade.

Founded in 1995 following the completion of the Uruguay Round (1986-1994) of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT), the WTO is the only global international organization that deals with the rules of trade between countries.

It does this through:

  • The administration of trade agreements;
  • The operation of a forum for negotiations;
  • The monitoring of national trade policies; and
  • The handling of trade disputes.

Based in Geneva, Switzerland, the WTO is run by its member governments and is supported by a Secretariat of roughly 700 staff led by the WTO Director-General.

Decisions in the WTO are generally taken by consensus of the entire membership. The highest institutional body is the Ministerial Conference, which meets roughly every two years. A General Council conducts the organization's business in the intervals between Ministerial Conferences. Both of these bodies are comprised of all members.

Specialized subsidiary bodies (Councils, Committees, Sub-committees), also comprising of all members, administer and monitor the implementation by members of WTO agreements and rules.