The World Trade Organization (WTO) is a global organization that focuses on promoting free trade among its member countries. It is responsible for setting the rules and regulations of trade, resolving disputes that arise between member countries, and facilitating negotiations between them.
One of the key principles of the WTO is the notion of trade liberalization, which seeks to reduce trade barriers and increase the flow of goods and services across borders. To achieve this goal, the WTO has negotiated several agreements that cover various aspects of trade, including goods, services, intellectual property, and dispute settlement.
However, it is important to note that the WTO agreements cover trade only in goods. This means that the organization does not have a mandate to regulate trade in services, intellectual property, or other non-tangible assets. Instead, these areas are covered by separate agreements and organizations.
The primary agreement that governs trade in goods under the WTO is the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT). This agreement sets out the rules for trade in goods, including the use of tariffs, the treatment of non-tariff barriers, and the conditions for granting trade concessions.
Under the GATT, member countries are expected to provide non-discriminatory treatment to one another, which means that they must treat goods from all other member countries equally. They are also required to provide “most-favored nation” treatment, which means that they must extend any trade concessions or benefits they grant to one member country to all other members.
Another important agreement that covers trade in goods under the WTO is the Agreement on Agriculture. This agreement sets out the rules for trade in agricultural products, including the use of subsidies, the protection of intellectual property rights, and the conditions for market access.
In addition to these agreements, the WTO has negotiated several other agreements that cover specific areas of trade, such as textiles, technical barriers to trade, and sanitary and phytosanitary measures.
In conclusion, while the WTO is a global organization that promotes free trade among its member countries, its mandate is limited to regulating trade in goods. This means that other areas of trade, such as services and intellectual property, are covered by separate agreements and organizations. Understanding these distinctions is crucial for businesses and policymakers who seek to navigate the complex and often contentious world of international trade.