World Trade Organization (WTO)

The World Trade Organization (WTO) is a global organization which was established and started operations in 1995. Its headquarters are in Geneva, Switzerland. It is one of the most influential international organizations. Its main function is to ensure that trade agreements and declarations among its member countries are respected and adhered to. The WTO has formulated more than twelve distinct trade agreements. These agreements cover a wide range of aspects such as agriculture, sanitation, dispute settlement and investments. The WTO also provides a forum for its members to engage in trade negotiations and dispute resolution.

The member countries of the WTO include almost all major trading powers and developed nations. These nations represent more than ninety percent of both the world's population and world trade. Separate customs territories having full autonomy in the way they conduct their external commercial affairs may also be members of the WTO. Examples of these territories are Hong Kong and Taiwan.

The decision making organ of the WTO is the ministerial conferences of its member governments. After every two years, ministers meet and discuss any issues regarding trade and the future direction of the WTO. But the actual daily affairs of the WTO are performed by committees known as the General Councils. These councils deal with issues such as trade and intellectual property, and in some cases, more specific issues such as textiles and import licensing.

The WTO has a lot of influence and authority and this makes it easier for it to make sure that member governments respect its rules. Governments which violate the set rules can face trade sanctions which may hurt their economies. The sanctions are automatically implemented except in cases where a consensus of members blocks them. Sometimes, WTO members may cross-retaliate and apply trade sanctions to any aspect of the offending country's international trade.

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