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World Trade Organization

The World Trade Organization (WTO) is an international organization which oversees a large number of agreements covering the "rules of trade" between its member states. It was created in 1995 as a secretariat to administer the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade, a trade treaty which laid much of the groundwork for the WTO. WTO headquarters are located in Geneva, Switzerland. Its current director-general is Supachai Panitchpakdi.

In the late 1990s, the WTO became a major target for protests by the Anti-globalization movement.

Table of contents
1 Decision-making structure
2 History
3 Related articles
4 External links
5 Further reading

Decision-making structure

Where most international organizations operate on a one country, one vote or even a weighted voting basis, many WTO decisions, such as adopting agreements (and revisions to them) are determined by consensus. Voting is only employed as a fall-back mechanism or in special cases. Critics observe that the consensus governance model moves power away from developing countries towards powerful first-world states, who can veto proposals they object to and prevent formal dissent on most measures they support.

The advantage of the consensus model is that it allows extremely rapid deployment of trade laws; it would otherwise take much longer (or not occur at all) in other forums. On the other hand, a system of this sort is skewed in favour of states that can continuously devote substantial resources to the analysis and negotiation of treaty terms. Moreover, under this system, agreements, once adopted, are very hard to change.

Unlike many other international organizations, the WTO has significant power to enforce its decisions, through the operation of its Dispute Settlement Body, an international trade court with the power to authorize sanctions against states which do not comply with its rulings.


Iran, which first asked to join the WTO in 1996, has seen its request repeatedly blocked by the United States, which lists Iran as a state sponsor of terrorism. Russia is also not yet a member, and first applied to join GATT in 1993.

Related articles

External links

Anti-WTO links

Further reading