WTO: World trade organization

World Trade Organization, abbreviated as WTO by abbreviationfinder, is a specialized agency of the United Nations, established in Geneva.

The aim of the WTO is to facilitate global economic cooperation. 164 states have belonged to the WTO since 2016 and have thus committed to their rules. The rules are intended to control global trade relations and ensure free world trade. To this end, the member states undertake z. B. to reduce tariffs. Customs duties are imposed by the state and increase the price of foreign products. They mean that these products are bought less often domestically. In that case, trade between these two countries would no longer be free.

So that tariffs on individual products are not negotiated, the WTO tries to reach agreements between the member states that affect the exchange of goods and services in certain areas, such as: B. the area of ​​information technology.

In the WTO there is also an arbitration tribunal that is supposed to settle the trade disputes between the member states.

As of January 1, 1996, the WTO passed the GATT (General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade) replaced.


The WTO forms a comprehensive contractual and institutional framework for strengthening global economic cooperation and shaping global trade relations. The WTO’s system of rules for international trade is based on v. a. on three pillars: the GATT with its sub-agreements and decisions as well as the results of the Uruguay Round, the GATS for the international exchange of services and the TRIPS, which regulates trade-related aspects of intellectual property rights.

According to this, the most important principles for guaranteeing free world trade are: reciprocity (principle of reciprocity), liberalization (dismantling of tariffs and non-tariff trade barriers), non-discrimination (especially most favored nation treatment). In contrast to the GATT, the WTO applies the principle of most-favored nation treatment more strictly, has institutionalized a dispute settlement procedure that is binding for all members and has replaced the previously loose system of negotiations (GATT rounds) with a system of regular negotiations at various levels. The aim is to initiate multinational liberalization agreements for selected markets.

The first successes were achieved in 1997 and 1999 in the areas of information technology, telecommunications and financial services. Negotiations on agricultural and service trade began in 2000. The aim of liberalizing these two areas was included in the negotiating agenda of the trade round that began in 2001 (agreed in Doha, Qatar). In July 2006, the negotiations, which were supposed to take particular account of the interests of the developing countries (»development round«), were suspended for an indefinite period due to insoluble conflicts of interest (the aim was to conclude the Doha round by the end of 2006; negotiation topics: including further dismantling of tariff barriers to trade, WTO rules on anti-dumping, subsidies and regional agreements, environmental protection, protection of intellectual property). In 2018, D. Trump took protectionist measures against all liberalization measures of the WTO and, citing national security, began to levy punitive tariffs on steel and aluminum imports first against China and then also against the European Union. Although this type of tariff is compatible with WTO rules, this step is still unique and has already led to protectionist countermeasures in the economies concerned. Experts fear that this could negatively affect the development of the world economy.


The ministerial conference as the highest body meets at least every two years and determines all actions necessary for the functioning of the WTO. The General Council assumes their function between the meetings. The dispute settlement body and the body for the commercial policy review mechanism are assigned to this body. There is also a secretariat chaired by a Secretary General appointed by the Conference of Ministers. Under the leadership of the General Council, the Council on Trade in Goods, the Council on Services and the Council on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights review compliance with GATT rules and the results of the Uruguay Round. The Committee on Trade and Development, the Committee on Trade and the Environment, the Committee on Regional Trade Agreements, the Committee on Budgets and the Committee on Finance and Administration. Within the Doha World Trade Round, the highest negotiating body between the ministerial conferences is the Trade Negotiating Committee, to which all WTO member states belong.

In principle, the consensus principle applies to decisions within the WTO. If no consensus is reached, the principle of a simple majority applies, with each member state having one vote. Unanimity is required on any change in principles and most favored nation treatment issues. Other fundamental changes require a two-thirds majority. The prerequisite for WTO membership is the unreserved acceptance of all the results of the Uruguay Round. Exceptions for sub-areas are not permitted.

The WTO has (since the end of July 2016) 164 full members with voting rights. In addition, non-members can receive observer status. With this status, accession negotiations to the WTO must begin within five years. In 2018, a total of 23 countries had observation status, including Ethiopia and Serbia.



GATT, short for G eneral A greement on T ariffs and T rade [ English, = General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade ], 1948 came into force agreements on the enforcement of global trade order. The number of members increased from the beginning of 23 to the last (end of 1994) 124. On January 1, 1996, the GATT was founded by the World Trade Organization founded in 1995 (WTO). The GATT was a specialized agency of the UN based in Geneva.

WTO Guide