This page has been archived, and may no longer be up to date

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


Banned: GE Rice Imports

Feature story | 29 September, 2006 at 17:51

Just weeks after we uncovered US rice on supermarket shelves in Europe contained illegal genetically engineered (GE) rice, the scandal keeps growing with more illegal GE rice being discovered. In the latest blow for the GE industry, the world's...

WTO ruling: GE chess game ends in stalemate

Feature story | 12 May, 2006 at 0:00

In a three-year game of international chess, the EU and US squared off at the World Trade Organisation (WTO) in what was billed as a winner takes all game. At stake, consumer choice about what they put on their plate: the food they want to eat...

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...

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...

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...

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...

Italian seeds contaminated with GE maize

Feature story | 10 July, 2003 at 0:00

Over 100 farmers in Northern Italy have discovered that non-genetically engineered (GE) maize seeds that they bought and planted, were in fact contaminated by GE maize. The fact that cases like this are happening on a regular basis, raises...

EU, don't cave in to US GMO agenda!

Feature story | 7 July, 2003 at 0:00

We gave two sacks of soy contaminated with Monsanto's genetically engineered (GE) varieties to Pascal Lamy (EU Trade Commissioner) and asked him to send them back to his US counterpart, Robert Zoellick. The right to say no to genetically...

Tougher EU GMO legislation

Feature story | 2 July, 2003 at 0:00

The European Parliament has adopted the world's toughest rules on the labelling of genetically modified organisms (GMOs), despite intensified pressure from the US and the GE industry. The new rules bring great news for EU consumers, farmers and...

1 - 10 of 14 results.