The World Trade Organization (WTO) is an international organization that administers international trade rules. It was founded in 1995. It replaced the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT), which was established in 1947 in the aftermath of World War II.
The World Trade Organization (WTO) is founded on agreements signed by the majority of the world’s trading countries. The organization’s major goal is to assist producers of goods and services, as well as exporters and importers, in safeguarding and managing their enterprises. Since 2021, it has 164 nations and 25 observer countries and administrations, including Libya and Afghanistan in July 2016.
Role of the organization
The World Trade Organization (WTO) is essentially an alternate dispute resolution or mediation body that supports international trade norms. The organization provides a forum for member states to discuss and resolve trade disputes with one another. The WTO’s major goal is to keep lines of communication open between its members when it comes to commerce.
The World Trade Organization, for example, has reduced trade obstacles and increased trade among member countries. On the other hand, when it makes sense in the global context, it has maintained trade barriers. As a result, the WTO tries to mediate negotiations in favour of the global economy.
Following the conclusion of discussions and the signing of an agreement, the WTO agrees to interpret the agreement in the event of a future disagreement. All WTO agreements feature a settlement process, in which the organization legally resolves disputes in a neutral manner.
The WTO’s General Council appointed NgoziOkonjo-Iweala, a two-time Nigerian finance minister, as its director-general on February 15, 2021. She is the first African-American woman to be chosen for the role. Her term began on March 1, 2021, and will conclude in August 2025.
Without the underlying WTO agreements, no negotiation, mediation, or resolution would be possible. The World Trade Organization (WTO) supervises these agreements, which establish the legal ground rules for international trade. They bind the government of a country to a set of limits that must be followed when developing future trade policy. These agreements safeguard producers, importers, and exporters while pushing governments around the world to adhere to certain social and environmental norms.
WTO and IPR
Patents, copyrights, and trademarks are examples of intellectual property rights (IPRs) that allow creators of new and/or original work to claim (partial) legal ownership of the result of their labor. IPRs are a defining product of Western civilization, anchored in its individualistic approach to invention. Patents and copyrights appear to have been employed for the first time in Renaissance Italy (David, 1993), and IPRs in general have become a mainstay of western legal heritage.
In the nineteenth century, most European countries including the United States (US) established a systematic legal framework.IPRs have generally been the province of national jurisdictions due to their legal roots, notwithstanding the lengthy history of international collaboration in this domain through multilateral treaties and conventions. The TRIPS (trade-related aspects of intellectual property rights) Agreement, which was integrated as one of the basic accords creating the World Trade Organization (WTO) and went into effect on January 1, 1995, gave a huge boost to the globalization of IPRs.
If IPR is related to trade?
The carefully chosen term ‘trade related’ that originally rationalized incorporating IPRs into the WTO raises this dilemma. Of course, nearly any economic regulation and/or institution will have (perhaps indirect) consequences on commerce, and trade, in turn, has an impact on how certain regulations and/or institutions work. However, as the preceding debate has shown, weak or non-existent IPRs can have a direct and non-trivial impact on commerce. This is especially true for commodities that are easily duplicated (‘pirated,’ in the language of the businesses concerned), such as computer software and entertainment industry optical media devices.
It’s less obvious whether and how greater IPRs affect the scope and direction of commerce. More trade could result when domestic ‘illegitimate’ copies and/or imitations are replaced with ‘legitimate’ products from the inventive exporting country. However, less trade may result for at least two reasons: because IPR holders have an incentive to limit production (the monopolist effect), and because strong IPRs may enable legitimate domestic production (possibly through FDI) that is a perfect substitute for the previously imported legitimate product.
If IPR belongs in WTO?
Despite the fact that IPRs are “trade related,” the question of whether they should be included in WTO operations remains unanswered. This was likely the most contentious issue previous to the TRIPS Agreement, and it has been resolved by the agreement itself as a matter of institutional architecture. The problem is as intriguing as it has always been in terms of intellectual endeavour. As previously stated, a number of economists have questioned the rationality of incorporating IPRs in the WTO.
Indeed, this is precisely the point made by people who debate the benefits and drawbacks of other topics being specifically addressed by the WTO, such as the environment, investment, labour standards, and competition policy. Maskus (2002) states that the situations of intellectual property rights and competition policy are better suitable for inclusion in the WTO, owing to their direct impact on market access. However, while accepting that IPRs and commerce are intertwined, and that addressing the cross-border externalities inexorably linked to this issue may necessitate an integrated system like the WTO’s, a related concern remains.
Some advantages and disadvantages of WTO
International trade has been a fight between protectionism and free commerce and globalisation, with both beneficial and harmful implications, has been driven by the World Trade Organization (WTO). The actions of the organisation, at the expense of local communities and human rights, have led to rising global growth in commerce.
Proponents of the WTO, notably multinational companies (MNCs), feel that the organisation benefits business by promoting free trade and reducing trade disputes, both of which are helpful to the global economy. Skeptics argue that the WTO undermines organic democracy principles and deepens the global wealth divide. As negative effects on the global economy, they refer to the collapse of domestic industry and the rise of foreign influence.
When President Donald Trump was in power, he threatened to withdraw from the World Trade Organization (WTO), calling it a “failure,” as part of his broader efforts to renegotiate US foreign trade agreements. The United States’ withdrawal from the World Trade Organization (WTO) may have disrupted global trade by trillions of dollars. During his presidency, he did not, however, withdraw the United States from the World Trade Organization (WTO).
Contributed by:– Nidhi Jha, Legal intern at LLL