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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

 

How does the WTO affect you, and why should you care about it?

Publication | 29 August, 2003 at 0:00

Since the 1990s, and in particular since the creation of the WTO, international environmental agreements have been under threat from the international trading regime. Increasingly, trade rules and practices under the WTO have been used to...

Questions and Answers about the 5th Ministerial Meeting of the WTO in Cancun, Mexico

Publication | 29 August, 2003 at 0:00

The Cancun meeting is the first time that environmental issues are directly on the agenda of a WTO Ministerial conference. There is a deep concern that the WTO mandate to discuss the relationship between trade rules and multilateral environmental...

Maize Under Threat - GE Maize Contamination in Mexico

Publication | 18 August, 2003 at 0:00

Hands Off Our Maize Briefing Package.

Monsanto's seeds of destruction

Feature story | 18 August, 2003 at 0:00

Mexicans are being forced to swallow Monsanto's seeds of destruction, while back in the US, Monsanto is not allowed to grow its genetically engineered (GE) cotton for fear of GE contamination. To expose this double standard our activists blocked...

A Guide to the 5th Ministerial Conference of the WTO

Publication | 15 August, 2003 at 0:00

The 5th WTO Ministerial Conference is set to take place in Cancun, Mexico, from 10th to 14thSeptember 2003. The preceding four Ministerial meetings were held, respectively, in Singapore(1996); Geneva (1998); Seattle (1999); and Doha (2001). The...

Greenpeace activists dressed as security

Image | 28 July, 2003 at 1:00

Greenpeace activists dressed as security guards confiscate a bag of genetically modified organisms from 'George Bush'.

WTO free zone

Feature story | 28 July, 2003 at 0:00

Greenpeace cordoned off the UN building in Montreal, to protect it from the US attack on consumers, farmers and the environment. Activists at the Greenpeace checkpoint were on the lookout for representatives of the US administration and Canadian...

Genetically engineered food by Bush & Co

Image | 23 July, 2003 at 1:00

Genetically engineered food by Bush & Co. E-card designed by Mark Fiore.

Greenpeace volunteers dressed as Uncle Sam

Image | 21 July, 2003 at 1:00

Greenpeace volunteers dressed as Uncle Sam dump GE maize on other volunteers representing consumers in straitjackets, suffocating their demand for the right to say no GE food.

Greenpeace volunteers dressed as Uncle Sam

Image | 21 July, 2003 at 1:00

Greenpeace volunteers dressed as Uncle Sam dump GE maize on other volunteers representing consumers in straitjackets, suffocating their demand for the right to say no GE food.

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