By Luana Oliveira
The World Trade Organization (WTO) aims to promote free and transparent international trade by establishing basic principles for countries' foreign trade policies. Based in Geneva, Switzerland, the WTO is responsible for regulating the rules of trade between nations, striving to assist producers of goods and services, exporters, and importers to conduct their businesses efficiently.
The WTO originated from the GATT (General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade) in 1995. The GATT, created in 1947 by 23 founding states, was structured on a system of tariff concessions for cooperation among countries in trade, combating protectionist practices and trade disputes. The WTO took on the role of administering the rules for free global trade, being crucial in managing debates among its member countries.
Today, the WTO consists of 164 members, representing 98% of global trade, with Brazil as one of the founding members of the organization. The organization oversees approximately US$ 20 trillion in trade exchanges worldwide.
The WTO operates in various areas of international trade, with responsibilities that include:
The WTO bases its actions on four principles:
WTO agreements aim to address issues related to goods, services, and intellectual property, promoting reductions on customs duties and other trade barriers. A notable example was the Doha Round, initiated in 2001, focusing on issues related to developing countries.
It's important to note that this Round developed due to disagreements between the interests of developing countries and developed countries during the Uruguay Round, where new disciplines on Intellectual Property and Services were proposed by developed countries and continue to this day.
Another interesting fact is that there have been twelve WTO Ministerial Conferences, in order: Singapore (1996); Geneva (1998); Seattle (1999); Doha (2001); Cancún (2003); Hong Kong (2005); Geneva (2009 and 2011); Bali (2013), Nairobi (2015) and Buenos Aires (2017). The 12th conference took place in 2022 in Geneva, replacing the original 2020 date that was cancelled due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
Some of the most active WTO members include the United States, the European Union, Canada, China, and Australia, all of whom have been part of numerous trade disputes. For instance:
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