1. Establishment of the WTO
The World Trade Organization (WTO) is an intergovernmental organization whose purpose is to promote trade liberation, fair competition, and predictability. It was established in 1995 as a result of the Uruguay Round of negotiations, which brought about the biggest reform of the world’s trading system since the 1948 General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT).
2. Marrakesh Agreement Establishing the World Trade Organization
In April 1994, Ministers of the WTO members met in Marrakesh, Morocco to sign the Final Act Embodying the Results of the Uruguay Round of Multilateral Trade Negotiations and the Marrakesh Agreement Establishing the World Trade Organization. The WTO was established on January 1, 1995 in line with the Marrakesh Agreement, with agreements covering goods (GATT), services (GATS) and intellectual property (TRIPS), and is strengthened by the Dispute Settlement Body and the Trade Policy Review Mechanism. Plurilateral agreements including the Agreement on Trade in Civil Aircraft, the Government Procurement Agreement, and the Information Technology Agreement as well as its subsequent expansion are also part of the WTO system, binding members that have acceded to them.
3. Organizational structure and members
The highest decision-making body of the WTO is the Ministerial Conference, which convenes biennially at a plenary meeting. During the adjournment of the Ministerial Conference, the General Council handles most WTO issues. The WTO Secretariat is situated in Geneva, Switzerland, and is currently headed by Director-General Roberto Azevêdo of Brazil. His appointment took effect on 1 September, 2013.
The WTO has 164 members as of July, 2016. The Republic of China (Taiwan) acceded to the WTO in January 2002 under the name "Separate Customs Territory of Taiwan, Penghu, Kinmen and Matsu." The ROC, through its permanent mission to the WTO, has actively participated in the Doha Development Agenda (DDA) round of negotiations launched in November 2001. The negotiations have focused on agriculture, development, dispute settlement, environmental protection, intellectual property rights, market access, rules, services, and trade facilitation.
4. The future of the WTO
The WTO’s 10th Ministerial Conference was held in Nairobi, Kenya from 15 to 18, December 2015. It reached several achievements:
(1) The adoption of the “Nairobi Package” a series of Ministerial Decisions on agriculture, cotton and issues related to least-developed countries (LDCs).
(2) The conclusion of the ITA Expansion negotiation, which is the first deal in tariff reduction in such a magnitude since the beginning of the WTO Uruguay Round.
(3) The accession of Afghanistan and Liberia to the WTO.