An Introduction on some un organizations & Int’ Organizations

НазваниеAn Introduction on some un organizations & Int’ Organizations
Дата конвертации19.04.2013
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An Introduction on some UN Organizations & Int’ Organizations.

Prof. Dr. park, Kyung-seo

The World Trade Organization (WTO)

There are a number of ways to look at the World Trade Organization (WTO). It is an organization for trade opening. It is a forum for governments to negotiate trade agreements. It is a place for them to settle trade disputes. It operates a system of trade rules. Essentially, the WTO is a place where member governments try to sort out the trade problems they face with each other.

The WTO was born out of negotiations, and everything the WTO does is the result of negotiations. The bulk of the WTO’s current work comes from the 1986-94 negotiations called the Uruguay Round and earlier negotiations under the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT). The WTO is currently the host to new negotiations, under the ‘Doha Development Agenda’ launched in 2001. Where countries have faced trade barriers and wanted them lowered, the negotiations have helped to open markets for trade. But the WTO is not just about opening markets, and in some circumstances it rules support maintaining trade barriers—for example, to protect consumers or prevent the spread of disease.

At its heart are the WTO agreements, negotiated and signed by the bulk of the world’s trading nations. These documents provide the legal ground rules for international commerce. They are essentially contracts, binding governments to keep their trade policies within agreed limits. Although negotiated and signed by governments, the goal is to help producers of goods and services, exporters, and importers conduct their business, while allowing governments to meet social and environmental objectives. The system’s overriding purpose is to help trade flow as freely as possible—so long as there are no undesirable side effects—because this is important for economic development and well-being. That partly means removing obstacles. It also means ensuring that individuals, companies and governments know what the trade rules are around the world, and giving them the confidence that there will be no sudden changes of policy. In other words, the rules have to be ‘transparent’ and predictable.

Trade relations often involve conflicting interests. Agreements, including those painstakingly negotiated in the WTO system, often need interpreting. The most harmonious way to settle these differences is through some neutral procedure based on an agreed legal foundation. That is the purpose behind the dispute settlement process written into the WTO agreements.

  1. History

    1. Bretton Woods Conference

Delegates numbering 730 from all 44 Allied Nations gathered at Bretton Woods in New Hampshire, United States, to cooperate in rebuilding the world order stricken by the World War.

    1. The General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT)

    1. The WTO

  1. Organization and Structure

    1. Organizational structure

The WTO’s top-level decision-making body is the Ministerial Conference which usually meets every two years. The WTO Agreement provides for a ministerial conference to be held at least once every two years, to help ensure the direct and formal involvement of political leaders in the work of the WTO on a regular basis; ministerial involvement of this type did not exist in the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT), the predecessor of the WTO. Ministerial conferences review ongoing work, provide political guidance and direction to that work, and set the agenda for further work as necessary. There have been seven ministerial conferences since the creation of the WTO in 1995, including the most recent Geneva Conference in December 2009.

Below it is the General Council (normally ambassadors and heads of delegation in Geneva, but sometimes officials sent from members’ capitals) which meets several times a year in the Geneva headquarters. The Council is entrusted with carrying out the functions of the WTO and taking actions necessary to this effect between meetings of the Ministerial Conference, in addition to carrying out the specific tasks assigned to it by the Agreement Establishing the WTO. The General Council also meets as the Trade Policy Review Body and the Dispute Settlement Body. Issues dealt by the Council include

At the next level, the Goods Council, Services Council and Intellectual Property (TRIPS) Council report to the General Council.

Numerous specialized committees, working groups and working parties deal with the individual agreements and other areas such as the environment, development, membership applications and regional trade agreements.

    1. Decision-making process

As the WTO is run by its member governments (Members), all major decisions are made by the membership as a whole; the two apparatus are through ministers (i.e. Ministerial Conference) and through states’ ambassadors or delegates (i.e. regular meetings in Geneva). The WTO continues GATT’s tradition of making decisions by consensus, not by voting, in order to ensure all Members’ interests are sufficiently taken into account. States often decide to join a consensus on account of the overall interests of the multilateral trading system. However, voting is allowed in case where consensus cannot be reached; this is conducted based on the “one country, one vote” rule and the decision of a majority vote cast passes. The WTO has narrowed down the situations where voting would be necessary, to four cases:

      • An interpretation of any of the multilateral trade agreements can be adopted by a majority of three quarters of WTO members;

      • The Ministerial Conference can waive an obligation imposed on a particular member by a multilateral agreement, also through a three-quarters majority;

      • Decisions to amend provisions of the multilateral agreements can be adopted through approval either by all members or by a two-thirds majority depending on the nature of the provision concerned. But the amendments only take effect for those WTO members which accept them; and

      • A decision to admit a new member is taken by a two-thirds majority in the Ministerial Conference, or the General Council in between conferences.

    1. WTO Membership

The WTO is open to states or customs territories with full autonomy over their foreign economic relations. To become a member of the WTO, a government has to bring its economic and trade policies in line with WTO rules and principles, and to negotiate specific concessions and commitments that it will apply to its trade in goods and services. It can take many years to become a member of the WTO. However, the accession process is designed to ensure that new members are able to participate fully in the multilateral trading system from their first day of membership. Before joining the WTO, a new member has to gain the full support of the WTO membership.

  1. Issues, Priorities and Mandates

  1. Priorities

The WTO agreements are lengthy and complex because they are legal texts covering a wide range of activities. But a number of simple, fundamental principles run throughout all of these documents. These principles are the foundation of the multilateral trading system:

  1. Non-discrimination: a country should not discriminate between its trading partners and it should not discriminate between its own and foreign products, services or nationals.

  2. More open: lowering trade barriers is one of the most obvious ways of encouraging trade; these barriers include customs duties (tariffs) and measures such as import bans or quotas that restrict quantities selectively.

  3. Predictable and transparent: foreign companies, investors and governments should be confident that trade barriers should not be raised arbitrarily. With stability and predictability, investment is encouraged, jobs are created and consumers can fully enjoy the benefits of competition—choice and lower prices.

  4. More competitive: discouraging ‘unfair’ practices, such as export subsidies and dumping products at below cost to gain market share; the issues are complex, and the rules try to establish what is fair or unfair, and how governments can respond, in particular by charging additional import duties calculated to compensate for damage caused by unfair trade.

  5. More beneficial for less developed countries: giving them more time to adjust, greater flexibility and special privileges; over three-quarters of WTO members are developing countries and countries in transition to market economies. The WTO agreements give them transition periods to adjust to the more unfamiliar and, perhaps, difficult WTO provisions.

  6. Protect the environment: the WTO’s agreements permit members to take measures to protect not only the environment but also public health, animal health and plant health. However these measures must be applied in the same way to both national and foreign businesses. In other words, members must not use environmental protection measures as a means of disguising protectionist policies.

Based on these fundamental principles, the WTO prioritizes its work amongst trade negotiations, implementation and monitoring, dispute settlement, building trade capacity, and outreach programs. First, the WTO’s main priority revolves around trade negotiations. The WTO agreements cover goods, services and intellectual property. They spell out the principles of liberalization, and the permitted exceptions. They include individual countries’ commitments to lower customs tariffs and other trade barriers, and to open and keep open services markets. They set procedures for settling disputes. These agreements are not static; they are renegotiated from time to time and new agreements can be added to the package. Many are now being negotiated under the Doha Development Agenda, launched by WTO trade ministers in Doha, Qatar, in November 2001.

Second, the WTO sees the work relating to implementation and monitoring of trade policies one of the most important tasks. To this end, WTO agreements require governments to make their trade policies transparent by notifying the WTO about laws in force and measures adopted. Various WTO councils and committees seek to ensure that these requirements are being followed and that WTO agreements are being properly implemented. All WTO members must undergo periodic scrutiny of their trade policies and practices, each review containing reports by the country concerned and the WTO Secretariat.

Third, the WTO prioritizes work regarding dispute settlement. The WTO’s procedure for resolving trade quarrels under the Dispute Settlement Understanding (DSU) is vital for enforcing the rules and therefore for ensuring that trade flows smoothly. Countries bring disputes to the WTO if they think their rights under the agreements are being infringed. Judgments by specially appointed independent experts are based on interpretations of the agreements and individual countries’ commitments.

Fourth among the WTO’s priorities is building trade capacity. WTO agreements contain special provision for developing countries, including longer time periods to implement agreements and commitments, measures to increase their trading opportunities, and support to help them build their trade capacity, to handle disputes and to implement technical standards. The WTO organizes hundreds of technical cooperation missions to developing countries annually. It also holds numerous courses each year in Geneva for government officials. Aid for Trade aims to help developing countries develop the skills and infrastructure needed to expand their trade.

Last but not least, the WTO maintains regular dialogue with non-governmental organizations, parliamentarians, other international organizations, the media and the general public on various aspects of the WTO and the ongoing Doha negotiations, with the aim of enhancing cooperation and increasing awareness of WTO activities.

  1. Issues

Notwithstanding the Organization’s wide range of issues, the following have long been issues of debate among the Members. Some have continued on from the GATT while some were only recently raised. Such issues on the WTO’s work agenda include:

  • Regional economic groupings

  • Trade and the environment

  • Trade, investment and competition

  • Transparency in government procurement

  • Trade “facilitation” (simplifying trade procedures, making trade flow more smoothly through means that go beyond the removal of tariff and non-tariff barriers)

  • Electronic commerce and intellectual property rights (IPRs).

Though not on the agenda, “trade and labor rights” is one issue of attention as it is discussed a lot in the WTO from time to time.

  1. Regional economic groupings

The surge in regional trade agreements has unabated since the early 1990s reaching a total number of 330 in July 2005. Europe has established the European Union, Canada and the United States the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), Southeast Asia the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation, Latin America the Common Market of the South (MERCOSUR), and so on. Several issues arise from such regional grouping: (1) its legality under and (2) benefits to the WTO’s multilateral trading system.

The first is whether such selective special treatment of some but not all Members is allowed under the WTO, as the organization emphasizes equal treatment of all parties. Not disregarding this principle, an exception to the equal treatment rule was created (GATT, Article 24); this owed to the fact that regional groupings contribute to the multilateral trade system, as many of them reduced or even removed trade barriers. Thus, as an exception to the equal treatment principle, regional trade arrangements are allowed, as long as duties and other trade barriers are reduced or removed on “substantially all sectors of trade” in the group, lest a non-regional member should find trade with the group any more restrictive than before its creation. Article 5 of the General Agreement on Trade in Services reinforces the same principle towards economic integration agreements in services. Other provisions in the WTO agreements also allow developing countries to enter into regional or global trade agreements that reduce or eliminate tariffs and non-tariff barriers on trade among themselves.

This naturally covers the second issue of whether regional blocks are beneficial. As long as the groups do not make trade more difficult than before they were set up, the WTO sees it beneficial to the multilateral trade system to have regional trade arrangements. In order for this standard to work through, the WTO General Council created the Regional Trade Agreements Committee on 6 February 1996. The Committee examines regional trade blocks and assesses their performance based on consistency with the rules of the WTO. Nevertheless, as trade becomes more multilateral and sectors of trade much broader, the WTO conducts further researches on the impact of the groupings on the multilateral trade system.

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