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  • Date:2023-06-15

1. Establishment
The World Trade Organization is an intergovernmental organization that seeks to promote greater liberalization, fairness, and predictability in global trade. The WTO’s establishment in 1995, resulting from the Uruguay Round of Multilateral Trade Negotiations, was the biggest reform of the world trading system since the advent of the 1948 General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT).

2. Marrakesh Agreement
In April 1994, the trade ministers of founding members met in Marrakesh, Morocco, to sign the Final Act Embodying the Results of the Uruguay Round of Multilateral Trade Negotiations and the Marrakesh Agreement Establishing the World Trade Organization, leading to the WTO’s official founding on January 1, 1995. The WTO helps regulate areas such as trade in goods (under GATT), trade in services (under the General Agreement on Trade in Services), and intellectual property rights (under the Agreement on Trade-related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights, or TRIPS). The Dispute Settlement Body and the Trade Policy Review Mechanism further strengthen the WTO’s operations. Numerous plurilateral and multilateral agreements including the Agreement on Trade in Civil Aircraft, the Government Procurement Agreement, the Information Technology Agreement and the expansion thereof, and the Trade Facilitation Agreement (TFA) also form part of the WTO system.

3. Organizational structure and members
The highest-level decision-making body of the WTO is the Ministerial Conference, which usually meets every two years. The General Council is responsible for carrying out the functions of the WTO. Located in Geneva, Switzerland, the WTO Secretariat is headed by the Director-General. The incumbent is Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala of Nigeria, whose term of office expires in 2025.
As of 2023, the WTO has 164 members. The Republic of China (Taiwan) acceded to the WTO in January 2002 under the name Separate Customs Territory of Taiwan, Penghu, Kinmen and Matsu. Through its Permanent Mission to the WTO, Taiwan has actively participated in negotiations on topics such as fisheries subsidies, e-commerce, agriculture, development, dispute settlement, environmental protection, trade-related intellectual property rights, market access, rules, services, and trade facilitation. Taiwan has used the dispute settlement mechanism to protect its industries.

4. Key developments in recent years
The 13th WTO Ministerial Conference was held in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, from February 26 to March 2, 2024. It was concluded with Ministerial Decisions and Declarations, including the following:
4.1. Ministerial Decisions on Dispute Settlement Reform, on Electronic Commerce, on TRIPS Non-Violation and Situation Complaints, on WTO Smooth Transition Support Measures in Favour of Countries Graduated from the LDC Category, and on Work Programme on Small Economies.
4.2. Ministerial Declarations on the Precise, Effective and Operational Implementation of Special and Differential Treatment Provisions of the Agreement on the Application of Sanitary and Phytosanitary Measures and the Agreement on Technical Barriers to Trade, and on Strengthening Regulatory Cooperation to Reduce Technical Barriers to Trade, as well as Abu Dhabi Ministerial Declaration.
4.3. The accession procedures for Comoros and Timor-Leste have been completed.