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Rainbow Warrior sails into Doha to challenge the WTO to force the US to commit to the Kyoto Protocol on climate change.

What is the WTO?

The World Trade Organisation (WTO) is one of the most powerful institutions in the world. It oversees the global trade in goods and services. There are currently 146 member countries of the WTO.

The WTO's primary aim is to serve the private sector rather than governments: 'Although negotiated and signed by governments, the goal is to help producers of goods and services, exporters and importers conduct their business.'

This view of the world deletes important elements such as the environment, the hundreds of millions of poor people who produce for themselves (not for markets) as well as many other social and human rights issues.

When the WTO was set up in 1995, the majority of developing countries were not at the table and were barely consulted. As a result, the WTO essentially protects multinational corporations based in the North and acts as a tool of rich and powerful countries - notably the US, the EU, Japan and Canada.

Although the majority of other WTO members are developing countries from Africa, Asia/Pacific and Latin America, many of them have little to say in decisions that are taken at WTO meetings. Smaller countries are blocked from entering meetings and don't have enough to offer from an economic standpoint to have any real power.

Not surprisingly, even though the WTO is a fairly new institution, there has been public scepticism and concern about how it functions since the beginning. Find out more about previous WTO meetings.

The WTO came into existence after a long series of negotiations that took place between countries from 1986 to 1994. It is made up of a series of agreements and incorporates the old General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT), a set of global rules that governed trade in goods.

But while the GATT only focused on trade in goods, the WTO's rules were extended to embrace many other topics, including intellectual property, investment, services, telecommunications and financial services (banking).

The latest updates

 

The US Assault on Biosafety – The WTO dispute on GMOs

Publication | 2 December, 2005 at 0:00

On May 13, 2003 the US government filed a complaint with the World Trade Organization (WTO) against the European Union’s de facto moratorium on genetically modified organisms (GMOs), as well as a number of EU member states’ national bans on GMOs.

Let them eat Democracy

Feature story | 12 October, 2005 at 0:00

Dear Pascal, more than a year ago, the US government teamed up with Canada and Argentina to complain to the World Trade Organisation (WTO) about the people of Europe.Europeans are simply too democratic, according to the US government, and public...

The US Assault on Biosafety – The WTO dispute on GMOs

Publication | 28 July, 2005 at 0:00

On May 13, 2003 the US government filed a complaint with the World Trade Organization (WTO) against the European Union’s de facto moratorium on genetically modified organisms (GMOs), as well as a number of EU member states’ national bans on GMOs.

Bush suppresses GE crop warnings

Feature story | 18 October, 2004 at 0:00

Monsanto and the US Government have been telling the world that genetically engineered crops pose no contamination threat to natural indigenous species. But Greenpeace has learned from a leaked report that NAFTA disagrees and is recommending...

US threatens EU over GE labelling laws

Feature story | 27 November, 2003 at 0:00

In a letter to US Trade Representative Robert Zoellick this week, a collected front of 22 US agribusiness lobby groups and organized farm interests called on Washington to "take every possible action" against coming EU rules on labelling and...

Messages of protest from around the world

Image | 15 September, 2003 at 1:00

Messages of protest from around the world which we displayed at the trade meeting in Cancun which was closed to protestors.

Activists block US genetically engineered

Image | 12 September, 2003 at 1:00

Activists block US genetically engineered maize from offloading at Vera Cruz, Mexico

Activists from the Greenpeace ship MV Arctic

Image | 11 September, 2003 at 1:00

Activists from the Greenpeace ship MV Arctic Sunrise intercepted the MV Ikan Altamira carrying 40.000 t of US GMO contaminated maize/corn as in response to fresh evidence that the US was dumping genetically engineered crops across the border...

Greenpeace Position Paper for the 5th Ministerial Conference of the WTO

Publication | 1 September, 2003 at 0:00

Greenpeace positions on issues coming to the table at the Cancun meeting of the WTO, including Multilateral Environmental Agreements, WTO and Agriculture, GATS, TRIPS, and the CBD.Plus Greenpeace's recommendations for an alternative sustainable...

Biodiversity, genetic resources and a new agenda for reforming the intellectual...

Publication | 1 September, 2003 at 0:00

The Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) establishes minimum standards for intellectual property rights (IPRs), including patents, copyrights, trademarks, and trade secrets. While balanced IPRs can promote...

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