The World Trade Organization (WTO) is an international organization that plays provides a forum for negotiating agreements aimed at reducing obstacles to international trade and ensuring a level playing field for all, thus contributing to economic growth and development. The WTO also provides a legal and institutional framework for the implementation and monitoring of these agreements, as well as for settling disputes arising from their interpretation and application.
The WTO was established in the course of the Uruguay Round of Trade negotiations on 1 January 1995. The WTO is the successor to the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT), which was created in 1947.
The WTO headquarter is located in Geneva, Switzerland (Rue de Lausanne 154, William Rappard Centre, Geneva).
The WTO currently has 164 members, of which 117 are developing countries or separate customs territories. WTO activities are supported by a Secretariat and led by the WTO Director-General – Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala. She took office on 1 March 2021, becoming the first woman and the first African to serve as Director-General. Her term of office will expire on 31 August 2025. Her predecessor H.E. Mr. Roberto Azevêdo was in the office since 2013 till 2020.
The three official languages of the WTO are English, French and Spanish.
The WTO has its Secretariat and an annual budget of approximately CHF 200 million.
The highest institutional body is the Ministerial Conference, which meets roughly every two years. A General Council conducts the organization's business in the intervals between Ministerial Conferences, as well as performs function of Dispute Settlement Body and Trade Policy Review. Decisions in the WTO are generally taken by consensus of the entire membership.
Fundamental WTO principles:
In the course of eight successive rounds of multilateral negotiations the WTO succeeded in liberalizing trade through reductions made by Members on the average level of tariffs. Most of the WTO agreements, which form the legal basis for the functioning of the Organization, are the result of the 1986–94 Uruguay Round negotiations, signed at the Marrakesh ministerial meeting in April 1994.
The key WTO agreements include: GATT 1994, General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS), Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS), Agreement on Agriculture, Agreement on Sanitary and Phytosanitary Measures, Agreement on Technical Barriers to Trade, Agreement on Subsidies and Countervailing Measures, Dispute Settlement Understanding and most recent Agreement on Trade Facilitation (TFA).
As for the functions of this Organization, the WTO:
Ukraine and WTO
Process of Ukraine’s accession to the WTO started on November 30, 1993 by submitting the official application of the Government of Ukraine about its intention to join the GATT. The Protocol on Ukraine’s accession to the WTO was signed on February 5, 2008 in Geneva and ratified by the Verkhovna Rada on April 10, 2008.
On April 16, 2008 the President of Ukraine V.Yushchenko signed a Law on the ratification of a Protocol on Ukraine’s accession to the WTO. According to the WTO procedures Ukraine became a full-fledged member of the Organization on May 16, 2008.
Ukraine’s WTO membership provided necessary conditions and opened new prospects for development of the national economy. As a WTO member Ukraine on absolutely equal conditions with the other member states is directly involved into creation of new world market trade rules within the current round of multilateral trade negotiations for the purpose of the maximum consideration of the national interests in the trade and economic field.
Having acquired the WTO membership Ukraine received the right to use the WTO disputes settlement mechanism that promotes the fair solution of any trade quarrels between the member states concerning observance of provisions of the WTO agreements. Within the specified mechanism a number of important questions were positively resolved, such as discriminatory taxation, licensing of some types of the Ukrainian production etc. Ukraine continues to use the above WTO mechanism in the course of the consistent efforts on promoting export growth and expansion of the Ukrainian goods on other markets.
The Ukraine’s accession to the WTO also creates the necessary conditions for signing the Agreement on free trade with The European Free Trade Association (Norway, Switzerland, Iceland and Liechtenstein) which came into force since June 1, 2012, as well as became a strong incentive to start negotiations with the European Union on creation of a free trade area. Political part of EU- Ukraine Association Agreement was signed on March 21, 2014. Economic part of this agreement was signed on June 27, 2014.
The Ukrainian Government foreign trade policy is directed toward active participating in multilateral trade negotiations in order to take advantages of Ukraine-WTO membership for the purpose of Ukraine’s export growth and protection of state economic interest on foreign markets.
Ministry of Economic Development and Trade of Ukraine is the central executive authority that is responsible for cooperation of Ukraine with the WTO.
More information on cooperation between Ukraine and the WTO can be found on the website of the Ministry for Development of Economy, Trade and Agriculture of Ukraine.