What is the WTO?
The World Trade Organization (WTO) is the only global international organization dealing with the rules of trade between nations. At its heart are the WTO agreements, negotiated and signed by the bulk of the worlds trading nations and ratified in their parliaments. The goal is to help producers of goods and services, exporters, and importers conduct their business.
There are a number of ways of looking at the World Trade Organization. It is an organization for trade opening. It is a forum for governments to negotiate trade agreements. It is a place for them to settle trade disputes. It operates a system of trade rules. Essentially, the WTO is a place where member governments try to sort out the trade problems they face with each other.
The WTO is run by its member governments. All major decisions are made by the membership as a whole, either by ministers (who usually meet at least once every two years) or by their ambassadors or delegates (who meet regularly in Geneva).
The WTO agreements are lengthy and complex because they are legal texts covering a wide range of activities. But a number of simple, fundamental principles run throughout all of these documents. These principles are the foundation of the multilateral trading system.
The World Trade Organization — the WTO — is the international organization whose primary purpose is to open trade for the benefit of all.
A starting point for essential information about the WTO.
An introduction, in more depth, to the WTO and its agreements.
The world is complex. The World Trade Organization is complex. This booklet is brief, but it tries to reflect the complex and dynamic nature of trade and the WTO’s trade rules.
Location: Geneva, Switzerland
Established: 1 January 1995
Created by: Uruguay Round negotiations (1986-94)
Membership: countries on
Budget: 197 million Swiss francs for 2013
Secretariat staff: 640
Head: Roberto Azevêdo (Director-General)
Administering WTO trade agreements
Forum for trade negotiations
Handling trade disputes
Monitoring national trade policies
Technical assistance and training for developing countries
Cooperation with other international organizations