Established in 1995 after the Uruguay Round of global trade talks, the World Trade Organization (WTO) is a powerful global commerce agency that transformed and expanded the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) into an enforceable global commerce code.
In late 2013, despite wide-spread resistance from civil society and opposition from some member countries, the Ninth Ministerial Meeting in Bali resulted in a twenty-third hour rollback of an existing WTO agricultural rule and a commitment for countries to update their customs procedures, as well as the implementation of weak trade benefits for least developed countries that had been agreed to years ago. The lack of a significant consensus demonstrates that the WTO’s crisis of legitimacy remains.
The WTO and GATT Uruguay Round Agreements have functioned principally to pry open markets for the benefit of transnational corporations at the expense of national and local economies; workers, farmers, indigenous peoples, women and other social groups; health and safety; the environment; and animal welfare. In addition, the WTO system, rules and procedures are undemocratic, un-transparent and non-accountable and have operated to marginalize the majority of the world's people.
Check out our book Whose Trade Organization? to learn more about the WTO's expansive non-trade provisions and their effects on the environment, our health and food safety, jobs and wages, development in poor countries and more.