Although the past decade has carried a great deal of news and coverage of the World Trade Organization (WTO), few people are truly aware of the organization’s function or the scope of its mission. It often appears to be just another one of the structureless bureaucracies that handle the details of todays modern life. However, the WTO is involved in issues ranging from disputes over steel manufacturing in Japan to China’s telecommunications system and textile manufacturing in African nations to the United States’ problems relating to the integration of U.S. regulations with those of the international community. It is the mission of the WTO to “settle” such international disputes in a ...view middle of the document...
There was no doubt that the contentious issues would present themselves at subsequent meetings.
The Uruguay Round talks of the late 1980s and early 1990s allowed for the completion of negotiations for the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) in December 1993. The deal was signed in April of 1994 by 117 countries, but was only put into effect after the U.S. Congress and other nations' legislatures had the opportunity to adopt or reject it. According to the Multinational Monitor (05-94), the “Uruguay Round agreements on investments and services extend the definition of trade far beyond goods” (pp. 5). The Uruguay Round also gave birth to the World Trade Organization, an international body that was essentially designed to replace the rather casually-coordinated GATT. At the time of its creation, many saw it as a threat to Third World interests while many others saw it as an organization that would actually be beneficial in dealing with Third World concerns. Those believing the WTO to be a positive force argued that the stricter enforcement of world trade rules would limit U.S. and other industrialized countries' unilateralism and double standards. Those opposed, according to the Multinational Monitor, thought it was more likely that the “WTO will prevent Third World countries from ‘slipping through the cracks,’ and that GATT/WTO disciplines will be applied most heavily against them” (pp. 5).
According to Cloud (1994), the creation of the World Trade Organization also drew criticism from some exactly Third World liberals and conservatives in the Congress of the United States. Critics in that realm believed that the WTO would undermine American sovereignty by overriding American commercial, labor and health laws. Supporters believed that the WTO would benefit the U.S. interests since the United States has an open market while many other countries do not.
WTO Policies and Processes
Writing for U.S. News & World Report, Dentzer (1994) commented that “Although the WTO's detractors invoke a ‘one world’ conspiracy right out of James Bond, the institution hardly deserves the demagogy swirling around it. Many nations have long seen the need for a mechanism to replace the existing GATT Secretariat--one that could oversee the growing variety of global trade accords and do a better job of resolving disputes” (pp. 45).
It is important to remember that for nearly fifty years (47 to be exact), international trade was liberalized under the protection of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT). But, as Aaronson (1994) points out, GATT was never an international organization like the World Bank or the United Nations. It had no members -- only contracting parties – and no charter or treaty status. It was simply a “multilateral agreement.” The Truman Administration built this international agreement on the Trade Agreements Act (TAA), which delegated authority to the President to conduct bilateral negotiations to reduce specific tariffs. Such...