The World Trade Organization (WTO) is an intergovernmental organization made up of 164 member countries that deals with the global rules of trade between nations. The WTO’s main function is to ensure that global trade flows freely and smoothly between nations. The WTO is also essentially an alternative dispute or mediation entity providing a platform for member governments to resolve and negotiate trade disputes when they arise.
The World Trade Organization was born out of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) of 1947. The GATT was a legal agreement signed by 23 countries that eliminate or reduced quotas, tariffs, and subsidies to minimize barriers to international trade. The agreement was intended to boost economic recovery after World War II. The GATT would lead to the creation of the World Trade Organization on January 1, 1995.
The WTO has its pros and cons. Many believe that the WTO is beneficial to business and the global economy by lowering barriers to trade and mediating trade disputes easily between member countries. Skeptics, however, believe that WTO widens the global wealth gap and undermines the principals of organic democracy. They believe that the WTO harms domestic communities and human rights.
If a country is a member of a WTO, its local laws cannot contradict the rules and regulations of the WTO. The WTO rules and regulations currently govern about 96.4% of all world trade.
U.S. President Donald Trump has a clear disdain for the World Trade Organization and has threatened to withdraw the United States from the World Trade Organization. He believes that the organization too often rules against the United States unfairly. Those who agree with Trump cite that the U.S. has been the subject of more negative trade agreement decisions than any other WTO member, suffering losses in about 90% of WTO claims filed against the U.S. However, the U.S. has also won 91% of issues when it has been a complainant. Trump pulling the United States out of the WTO would disrupt trillions of dollars in global trade.
At its creation, the World Trade Organization has 125 member countries. Today, there are 164 member countries. All of the World Trade Organization member countries are listed below.