View a 10% preview of these notes below.
The World Trade Organization (WTO) is a multilateral institution set up under an international agreement in 1994 to regulate and administer trade and related activities between its members. It has been operational since 1 January 1995 with its Secretariat in Geneva. The WTO law refers to the legal regime that governs the exchange or import and export of goods, services, capital, and technology between WTO members pursuant to a body of WTO agreements, understandings, and protocols, including the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) – the predecessor of the WTO. The study of the WTO law involves the study of international trade according to various contractual arrangements stipulating rules, principles, procedures, and practices that WTO members negotiated and agreed to follow in order to make their trading relationships non-discriminatory, fair, predictable, and transparent. The WTO law, being developed through international agreements, falls squarely within the domain of public international law. There is a close relationship between international trade and financial system due to the involvement of trade-related financing (payments) as well as debt crises. The North-South conflict of economic interest in international trade brings the interplay of law, politics, diplomacy, and balance of power in multilateral trade negotiations under the WTO. The study of the WTO law encompasses all these issues to understand the dynamics and politics of international economic cooperation.
GATT was initiated at the aftermath of the Second World War and implemented on a provisional basis in 1947. Its partial and discriminatory coverage of trading sectors, permissive legal regime, weak institutional framework, power-based decision making, and conciliatory approach benefited the powerful few at the expense of powerless many. Widespread dissatisfaction about the performance of GATT necessitated its overhauling reforms, which took place in the eighth Uruguay Round of GATT talk in 1986 -1993.
The Uruguay Round concluded a series of new agreements on trade in goods, services, intellectual property rights, dispute settlement, and review mechanisms, and established the WTO as their administering authority. It also reached six new understandings explaining certain controversial provisions and articles of GATT 1947, constituting a new GATT, called GATT 1994. GATT 1947 remains independent but an integral part of the WTO trading regime. All these trade instruments of the Uruguay Round and GATT 1947 constitute the principal sources of multilateral trade law, rules, and disciplines under the WTO. This rule-based WTO multilateral trading system backed by an effective dispute settlement mechanism has been implemented with the specific objectives, among others, of addressing the imbalances of GATT and its domination by powerful members. This Unit examines the WTO trading system with the end in view to see the extent to which its intended objective is achieved. The fairness and equity dimensions of trade between
WTO members with markedly diverse socio-economic circumstances since 1995 expose the unfairness of fair trade, which is yet to be dissipated under the WTO.
The progressive development of the WTO law has partially been stalled since the sixth WTO Ministerial Conference in Hong Kong in December 2005. Nonetheless, the existing WTO trading regime embodies a very wide spectrum of rules, disciplines, procedures, and practices and it not possible to cover them all in the given contact hours in this semester. This reality has led me to be selective and I have selected 13 topics and teaching sessions on the basis of their importance and necessity in understanding the WTO law.
You must log in to submit a review.