An Overview of World Trade Organization (WTO)
The World Trade Organization (WTO) is an international organization which serves as a negotiating forum where the majority of the world's countries discuss how to make trade simpler and more beneficial for all members. Headquartered in Geneva, Switzerland, the WTO's official languages are English, French, and Spanish. The World Trade Organization was founded on January 1, 1995. Today, the World Trade Organization has 153 members. Delegates of member countries negotiate trade issues over a number of years called "rounds." Recent rounds have taken place primarily in Japan, Uruguay, and Qatar. The World Trade Organization reviews national trade policies often and encourages countries and companies to reduce or eliminate barriers to trade. These barriers include tariffs, customs taxes, export subsidies, import bans, and quotas. The WTO has been very successful in lowering tariffs, especially in textiles. The WTO works in four main areas: manufactured goods, agricultural products, services such as banking and telecommunications, and intellectual property such as patents and movies. In order to protect human rights, product and food safety, and natural resources, the WTO sometimes concedes and maintains trade barriers. The World Trade Organization is the successor to the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade, or GATT, which was signed in 1947 to monitor the postwar realm of world trade. GATT had tremendous success in reducing tariffs, but it couldn't enforce many of its policies or solve disputes easily. Over the next fifty years, the world economy changed dramatically due to globalization and economic downturns.
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