The WTO agreements are lengthy and complex because they are legal texts covering a wide range of activities. They deal with: agriculture, textiles and clothing, banking, telecommunications, government purchases, industrial standards and product safety, food sanitation regulations, intellectual property, and much more. But a number of simple, fundamental principles run throughout all of these documents. These principles are the foundation of the multilateral trading system.
Without discrimination — a country should not discriminate between its trading partners (giving them equally “most-favoured-nation” or MFN status); and it should not discriminate between its own and foreign products, services or nationals (giving them “national treatment”);
Predictable — foreign companies, investors and governments should be confident that trade barriers (including tariffs and non-tariff barriers) should not be raised arbitrarily; tariff rates and market-opening commitments are “bound” in the WTO;
More competitive — discouraging “unfair” practices such as export subsidies and dumping products at below cost to gain market share;
Participants in a recent radio discussion on the WTO were full of ideas. The WTO should do this, the WTO should do that, they said.
One of them finally interjected: “Wait a minute. The WTO is a table. People sit round the table and negotiate. What do you expect the table to do?”
World Trade Organization. (2015). Understanding the WTO: basics—What is the World Trade Organization?. Retrieved from World Trade Organization Website: http://www.wto.org/english/thewto_e/whatis_e/tif_e/fact1_e.htm