The World Trade Organization (WTO) was established on January 1, 1995, following the ratification of the Uruguay Round Agreements (URA). It succeeded the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT), which was created in 1947 as a part of the post-WWII effort to build a stable, open international economic framework. The WTO has three basic functions: (1) administers existing agreements; (2) serves as a negotiating forum for new trade liberalization; and (3) provides a mechanism to settle trade disputes among the parties. WTO agreements cover goods, services and agricultural trade, remove tariff and nontariff barriers, and establish disciplines on government practices that directly relate to trade—for example, trade remedies, technical barriers to trade, customs valuation, intellectual property rights, and government procurement. The WTO agreements are based on the principles of nondiscrimination, national treatment among countries, and transparency of trade rules and regulations. Some exceptions, however, such as preferential treatment for developing countries and regional and bilateral free trade agreements (RTAs), are allowed.
Date of Report: January 12, 2015
Order Number: IF10002
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