The World Trade Organization (WTO) is the only global international body dealing with the rules of trade between nations.
It was created during Uruguay Round of trade talks in 1994, when the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT), created in 1948 was transformed into a permanent institution. Australia is a founding member of the WTO (1 January 1995) and its predecessor the GATT. The WTO is responsible for:
- Providing a forum for member countries to negotiate trade rules
- Providing a mechanism for handling trade disputes
- Monitoring and reviewing domestic trade policies of individual members
- Helping developing country members comply with WTO rules (and realise the benefits of membership)
At its heart are a series of multilateral agreements. These agreements set legal rules for international trade in goods and services. The full list of agreements can be found on the WTO website.
The WTO Ministerial Conference is the peak decision-making body of the WTO. The Tenth Ministerial Conference (MC10) was held in Nairobi, Kenya from 15-18 December 2015. This conference marked the 20th anniversary of the WTO and was the first Ministerial Conference held in Africa.
It culminated in the adoption of the Nairobi Package, a series of six Ministerial Decisions on agriculture, cotton and issues related to least-developed countries (LDCs). This included a historic agreement by WTO members to end all agricultural export subsidy entitlements. Australia welcomed this outcome as a major win for Australian farmers.
In addition, 54 WTO members announced the conclusion of a landmark deal to update and expand the coverage of the 1997 Information Technology Agreement (ITA) by eliminating tariffs on 201 technology products.
The Doha Round of multilateral trade negotiations was launched in 2001. At MC10 there was no consensus to continue the Doha Round negotiations under the original mandate. Some members – including Australia – expressed the view that new approaches are necessary to achieve meaningful outcomes.
Australia will continue to work with other Members to develop new approaches to conclude the outstanding parts of the Doha agenda and pursue work on other issues relevant to the modern trading environment.
Ministerial Conferences have previously been held in Singapore, Geneva (1998, 2009, 2011), Seattle, Doha, Cancún, Hong Kong and Bali.
Australia and the WTO
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About the WTO
WTO Doha Round Bulletins