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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 and EU are split over GE.

Image | 12 May, 2006 at 0:00

The US and EU are split over GE.

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 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'.

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.

Who rules the G8? Right

Image | 2 June, 2003 at 1:00

Who rules the G8? Right, end of photo op, let's go boys...

Police guards and barbed wire keep out public

Image | 21 October, 2002 at 1:00

Police guards and barbed wire keep out public opinion while the GE seed industry plots the contamination of European land inside.

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