What is the WTO?

The World Trade Organisation was established in 1995. As of 2020, it includes 164 countries and is headquartered in Geneva, Switzerland. The WTO has been used to push an expansive array of policies on trade, investment and deregulation that exacerbate the inequality between the North and the South, and among the rich and poor within countries. The WTO enforces some twenty different trade agreements, including the General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS), the Agreement on Agriculture (AoA) and Trade-Related Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS).

The WTO is inherently undemocratic. Its trade tribunals, working behind closed doors, have ruled against a stunning array of national health and safety, labor, human rights and environmental laws, which have been directly challenged as trade barriers by governments acting on behalf of their corporate clients. National policies and laws found to violate WTO rules must be eliminated or changed or else the violating country faces perpetual trade sanctions that can be in the millions of dollars. Since the WTO's inception in 1995, the vast majority of rulings in trade disputes between member nations have favored powerful industrialized countries. Consequently, many countries, particularly developing countries, feel enormous pressure to weaken their public interest policies whenever a WTO challenge is threatened in order to avoid costly sanctions.

The official website of the WTO is wto.org.