The Good, The Bad, The WTO
On May 19,1948, the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade or GATT was created. This was not an international organization but an inter-governmental treaty. This provided the framework for the conduct of international trade. But this expanded and grew yearly and in April 1994, in the Uruguay Round of Multilateral Trade Negotiations expanded on the GATT and created the World Trade Organization or WTO.
The World Trade Organization was created with a goal and ultimate objective set in mind. Its ultimate goal is to improve the welfare of peoples in the member countries. The objective is to help trade flow smoothly, fairly and predictably. In this paper you will learn what the WTO does, how it does this, how it is set up, criticisms against the WTO and arguments for the WTO.
The World Trade Organization is the only global international organization dealing with the rules of trade between nations. The WTO does this by administering trade agreements, acting as a forum for trade discussions, settling trade disputes, reviewing national trade policies, assisting developing countries in trade policy issues through technical and training programs and cooperating with other international organizations.
The World Trade Organization is located in Geneva, Switzerland. It has a yearly income of 127 million Swiss Francs. The WTO employs around 500 staff for technical support of the council. It has 140 member countries as of November 30, 2000 and this consists of 90% of the worlds trade. The WTO currently has 30 countries seeking membership with the largest of these being China. To enter China has slowly been opening up its economy to the world but needs to do more such as opening the insurance market, letting foreign banks into China and opening up telecommunication markets.
In the World Trade Organization there are two main bodies, the Ministerial Conference and the General Council. The Ministerial Conference is responsible for carrying out the functions of the WTO. It meets at least once every two years, and the General Council runs the organization. Ambassadors or the heads of each country’s delegation in Geneva are on this council. Under this council there are three subsidiary councils, the Council for Trade in Goods, the Council for Trade in Services, and the Council for Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights. Almost all decisions in the World Trading Organization are made by consensus. Consensus not meaning unanimity. It signifies that no country physically represented in a meeting of the council is decisively against a major issue. Those who are not present or whom abstain from voting do not count. This is for the majority of votes done in the World Trade Organization, rather than anything not stated to be voted on otherwise. The only thing that unanimity is needed is on amendments relating to general principals such as Most Favored Nation treatment. They also use a three-quarters vote and a two-thirds vote for the issues.
The current Director-General is Mike Moore. He is a Former Prime Minister of New Zealand. He is the head of the Secretariat, and in a way, the guardian of the collective interests of the Member States. The Director-General acts more as a broker then a decision-maker though.
The result of all this is assurance. Producers and consumers know that they have a greater choice of finished products, components, raw materials and services that they use and that foreign markets will remain open to them.
Not everyone is happy with the performance of the World Trade Organization. On November 30, 1999, over 50,000 people gathered in Seattle, Washington for a peaceful protest. They came from all over the world and for many different causes. There was organized labor, environmentalists, farmers, students and teachers, people of faith, indigenous people and anarchists just to name a few. The protesters all came for different causes but they all had the same agenda in mind. They all came to protest the World Trade Organization, which was having a Ministerial Conference at the time.
To get a better look at why they were protesting I decided to discuss a few of their concerns. For instance, there was a group of 300 children there dressed as turtles. They were to represent the fact