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Guides: Trade

Last Updated: Wednesday September 10 2003 15:08 GMT

What is the World Trade Organisation?

Based in Geneva, the World Trade Organisation was set up in 1995.

The WTO looks after the rules of international trade.

WTO decisions are absolute and every member must abide by its rulings.

For example, if the USA and the European Union are in dispute over bananas or beef, it is the WTO which acts as judge and jury.

WTO facts:

  • 144 member states (as of 1 January 2002)
  • 99 million US dollars
  • Its main members are the USA, the European Union and Japan

People who disagree with the WTO say that:

  • The WTO is too powerful, in that it can make countries change laws.

  • The WTO is run by the rich for the rich and does not give significant weight to the problems of developing countries.

  • The WTO doesn't do enough for workers' rights, child labour, the environment and health.

  • The WTO meetings are closed to the public and the media.

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