The WTO was established through the WTO Agreement which came into force on January 1, 1995. The WTO Agreement is in fact the Uruguay Round agreements, whereby the original General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) is now a part of the WTO Agreement. It follows that the WTO is a successor to the GATT; it completely replaces it and has a legal status.
The main objectives of the WTO are:
- To conduct its affairs in the field of trade and economic endeavour with a view to ensuring full employment of resources, large and steadily growing volume of real income and effective demand, expanding the production and trade in goods and services, and raising standards of living.
- To promote optimal use of the world resources in accordance with the objective of sustainable development.
- To make positive efforts designed to ensure that developing countries secure a share in the growth of international trade commensurate with the need of their economic development.
- To work towards substantial reduction of tariffs and other barriers to trade and the elimination of discriminatory treatments in international trade relations.
- To ensure linkages between trade policies, environmental policies and sustainable development.
To achieve the above and other related objectives, the functions of the WTO include:
- Facilitating the implementation, administration and operation of the objectives of the Agreement and of the Multilateral Trade Agreements.
- Providing the framework for the implementation, administration and operation of the plurilateral Trade Agreements relating to trade in civil aircraft, government procurement, trades in dairy products and bovine meat.
- Cooperating with the IMF and the World Bank and its affiliated agencies with a view to achieving greater coherence in global economic policy-making.
The organization of the WTO is headed by the Ministerial Conference of representatives of all member countries. It carries out the functions of the WTO. There is also the General Council of representatives of all member countries sitting in Geneva on a regular basis to oversee the operations of the WTO Agreements and Ministerial decisions.
The major criticism of the WTO is that the developing member countries have not succeeded in getting market access in developed countries. The opening of market since the WTO Agreement has been only in the developing countries.