Trade Organization is an international organization that promotes trade in goods
and services between nations. Most nations belong to the World Trade Organization, often
called the WTO.
A WTO member nation has both rights and responsibilities. The most important right
guarantees that, except in special circumstances, a country's export goods and services
get the same treatment as those of any other WTO member. This treatment includes the same
tariffs (import taxes) and other trade restrictions. The main responsibility of a member
nation is to follow WTO guidelines on international trade. For example, a member nation
must treat the exports of all WTO members equally. Another important rule involves the
resolution of trade disputes. In case of disagreement over a trade issue, a member nation
agrees to submit the case to a WTO committee for review. If the committee finds that a
country has violated its WTO commitments, the country must either change its practices or
face increased taxes on its exports.
The World Trade Organization was founded in 1995. It absorbed the General Agreement on
Tariffs and Trade (GATT), which covers trade in manufactured and agricultural goods. The
WTO also regulates trade in services and in intellectual property, which includes such
creations as books, computer software, and recordings.
The WTO is one of three major organizations that oversee international economic relations
among governments. The other two are the International Monetary Fund, which works to
improve payment arrangements and other financial dealings between countries, and the World
Bank, which provides loans to poorer nations for economic development. WTO headquarters
are in Geneva, Switzerland.