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World Trade Organization (WTO): Getting Started

Background Materials


"The World Trade Organization (WTO) is the only global international organization dealing with the rules of trade between nations. At its heart are the WTO agreements, negotiated and signed by the bulk of the world’s trading nations and ratified in their parliaments. The goal is to help producers of goods and services, exporters, and importers conduct their business." [Excert from WTO homepage introduction.]

WTO is mentioned in news almost everyday, and almost always in any multilateral summits between countries. WTO is regarded as the forum to promote trade between countries in the evermore globalized and interdependent world. The idea of such multilateral trade organization first grew out of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) in 1948, and then, through multiple agreements and trade rounds such as Marrakech Agreement (1995) and Uruguay Round (1986–1994). WTO was officially formed in 1995.

However, because it is a multilateral free trade agreement involving all the member countries, there are often impasses between countries in reaching a universal agreement, especially between developed and developing countries, in decidng the terms of trade particulary in relation to sensitive subjects such as agriculture. Thus, we are more and more seeing bilateral or regional free trade agreements between countries, which are relatively easier to reach an agreement among the parties than the agreement of the world.

However, WTO still plays an active role in the world trade, not only enforcing and resolving trade disputes based on the agreements that are already in force, but also as an ultimate aspiration for all countries to reach further liberalization of trade across the world.

Hyun-Ki "Brian" Kim authored this Research Guide as part of the course requirements for the Fall 2013 Foreign, Comparative, and International Law Advanced Legal Research course. Mr. Kim, who is fluent in English and Korean, was a member of the Journal of Transnational Law & Contemporary Problems (TLCP), and graduated from the University of Iowa College of Law in December 2014.


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