The World Trade Organisation (WTO) is the only global organisation dealing with the rules of trade between nations. Established in 1995 and based in Geneva it replaced and strengthened the General Agreement on Trade and Tariffs (GATT).
As well as administering global trade agreements the organisation is a forum for trade negotiations and is currently facilitating the Doha round of world trade talks. The WTO provides an important arbitration service for international trade disputes. A key principle is non-discrimination. This ensures that similar products from different countries must be treated in the same way.
The organisation also monitors national trade policies and provides technical assistance and training to developing countries. Virtually all decisions in the WTO are taken by consensus among the 147 member countries and are ratified by members' parliaments.
The UK is a member of the WTO in its own right but for all practical purposes we work through our membership of the European Union (EU). This greatly benefits the UK, increasing our influence and bargaining power in both bilateral and world trade negotiations.
World Trade Organisation (WTO)
10 Common Misunderstandings About the WTO
DTI World Trade pages
Directorate General Trade of the European Commission