Jun 28, 2022
In today’s edition of our Current Affairs Dialog box, we will discuss The WTO’s Ministerial Conference. Navigate through the blog to understand the topic in detail and enhance your UPSC CSE Preparation Online.
For Prelims: Economics; International Organisation
For Mains: Important International Institutions, Agencies and their structure and mandate.
The WTO's 12th Ministerial Conference (MC12) took place from 12 to 17 June 2022 at WTO headquarters in Geneva. The Conference was co-hosted by Kazakhstan. It was originally scheduled in June 2020, but the conference was postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Ministerial Conference (MC) is at the very top of WTO’s organisational chart. It meets once every two years. This year’s conference (MC12) took place in Geneva, Switzerland.
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In brief, the World Trade Organisation (WTO) is the only international organisation dealing with the global rules of trade.
Its main function is to ensure that trade flows as smoothly, predictably and freely as possible.
The WTO came into being in 1995. It is the successor to the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) established in the wake of the Second World War.
Location: Geneva, Switzerland
Established: 1 January 1995
Created By: Uruguay Round Negotiations (1986-94)
Membership: 164 Members Representing 98% Of World Trade
The WTO has 164 members, accounting for 98% of world trade and 25 observer states.
WTO’s secretariat is based in Geneva, Switzerland. Decisions are made by the entire membership.
This is typically by consensus. A majority vote is also possible, but it has never been used in the WTO.
The WTO’s top-level decision-making body is the Ministerial Conference, which meets usually every two years.
Below this is the General Council (normally ambassadors or heads of delegation based in Geneva but sometimes officials sent from a member’s government) which meets several times a year in the Geneva headquarters.
The General Council also meets as the Trade Policy Review Body and the Dispute Settlement Body.
At the next level, the Goods Council, Services Council and Intellectual Property (TRIPS) Council report to the General Council
The WTO’s overriding objective is to help trade flow smoothly, freely and predictably.
It does this by:
Administering WTO trade agreements
Acting as a forum for trade negotiations
Settling trade disputes
Reviewing national trade policies
Building the trade capacity of developing economies Cooperating with other international organisations
Basic Principles of the WTO Agreements
Principle of MFN (Most-Favoured-Nation) Treatment
Principle of National Treatment
Principle of General Prohibition of Quantitative Restrictions
Principle regarding Tariffs as Legitimate Measures for the Protection of Domestic Industries
Some Important WTO Agreements
Uruguay Round negotiations (1986- 94)
The Uruguay Round created new rules for dealing with trade in services and intellectual property and new procedures for dispute settlement.
Through these agreements, WTO members operate a non- discriminatory trading system that spells out their rights and their obligations.
The Marrakesh Agreement, for implementation of Uruguay negotiations and establishment of the WTO, and its annexes (including the updated GATT) has become the WTO’s umbrella agreement dealing with specific sectors relating to goods and with specific issues such as product standards, subsidies and actions taken against dumping.
Some other agreements related to Goods are;
Agreement on Agriculture (AOA) (Came into force in 1995)Agreement on the Application of Sanitary and Phytosanitary (SPS) Measures (Came into force in 1995)Agreement on Trade-Related Investment Measures (TRIMs) (Came into force in 1995)Trade Facilitation Agreement (TFA) (Came into force in 2017)
Banks, insurance firms, telecommunications companies, tour operators, hotel chains and transport companies looking to do business abroad enjoy the same principles of more open trade that originally only applied to trade in goods.
These principles appear in the General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS). (Came into force in 1995)
WTO members have also made individual commitments under the GATS stating which of their service sectors they are willing to open to foreign competition, and how open those markets are.
The WTO’s Intellectual Property Agreement (TRIPS) contains rules for trade in ideas and creativity. (Came into force in 1995)The rules state how copyrights, patents, trademarks, geographical names used to identify products, industrial designs and undisclosed information such as trade secrets – “intellectual property” – should be protected when trade is involved.
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