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
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
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).