World Trade Organization.
The World Trade Organization (WTO) is an organization that intends to supervise and liberalize international trade. WTO comprises of 162 member countries. The organization officially com-menced on January 1, 1995 under the Marrakesh Agreement, replacing the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT), which commenced in 1948. The organization deals with regulation of trade between participating countries; it provides a framework for negotiating and formalizing trade agreements, and a dispute resolution process aimed at enforcing participants' adherence to WTO agreements which are signed by representatives of member governments and ratified by their parliaments. Most of the issues that the WTO focuses on derive from previous trade negotia-tions, especially from the Uruguay Round (1986–1994).
WTO and the Doha Round
The members of the organization have been attempting to complete negotiations on the Doha Development Round, which was launched in 2001 in Qatar with an explicit focus on addressing the needs of developing countries. Few concrete results were obtained in the first years and in 2008 the negotiations broke down. The impasse continued through 2011, but at the 8th Ministerial Conference of WTO (MC8) in December 2011, the ministers agreed “to advance negotiations, where progress can be achieved, including focusing on the elements of the Doha Declaration that allow Members to reach provisional or definite agreements based on consensus earlier than the full conclusion of the single undertaking”. This new “approach” effectively paved the way for the small but important deal at the 9th Ministerial Conference of WTO (MC9) in Bali in December 2013 with a multilateral agreement on Trade Facilitation (TF) and an LDC-“package” as a central part. The negotiations continued in 2014 and 2015 with a view to concluding the entire Doha Round. Due to slow progress caused by a low level of ambition and some setbacks this goal was abandoned in September 2015 leading up to the rather dramatic 10th Ministerial Conference of WTO (MC10) in Nairobi in December that year with success in the overtime. The ministers reached according to many a historic, systemically important but commercially moderate result on export competition in the agricultural field (outlawing among others export subsidies) and agreeing on a new LDC-“package”. Another very important deal and deliverable at MC10 was the agreement on ITA-II with huge commercial value.
In Nairobi, the ministers could not agree on the future of the Doha Development Round, including defining the negotiating agenda for the coming years. Instead, they took the – in an WTO context – rather unusual step to agree to disagree on this subject, but at the same time de facto agreed to start “reflections” on the role of the WTO in the international trading system, the multilateral negotiations, the Doha Round issues, other issues with a view to advancing the work of the organization, including identifying possible deliverables for the next ministerial conference (MC11) late 2017. This work has slowly picked up in 2016 but it is too early to say if it will lead to concrete results.
In 2016 the work in Geneva on a possible Environmental Goods Agreement (EGA) and a Trade in Services Agreement (TiSA) is expected to see considerable progress maybe they could potentially be concluded late in the year. It is furthermore expected that Liberia and Afghanistan will become Members (no. 163 and 164) of the organization later this year.
Geneva, May 2016