World Trade Organisation
World Trade Organisation

China has called on World Trade Organisation (WTO) members on Monday to unite to prevent the United States “wrecking” the WTO, and it urged them to oppose US President Donald Trump’s tariffs targeting China’s alleged theft of intellectual property, according to Reuters. 

Nobel Prize-winning economist Joseph Stiglitz sounded a warning on President Donald Trump's resistance to appointing new judges at the World Trade Organization. "What makes things particularly of concern to me right now is that Trump has blocked the appointment of new judges at the WTO, and the WTO appellate body is getting hamstrung," Stiglitz told CNBC, referring to the organization's seven-member panel that overlooks international disputes. 

The WTO officially commenced on 1 January 1995 under the Marrakesh Agreement, signed by 123 nations on 15 April 1994, replacing the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT), which commenced in 1948. WTO is the only global international organization dealing with the rules of trade between nations. 

At its heart are the WTO agreements, negotiated and signed by the bulk of the world’s trading nations and ratified in their parliaments. The goal is to help producers of goods and services, exporters, and importers conduct their business. Virtually all decisions in the WTO are taken by consensus among all member countries and they are ratified by members' parliaments. 

Trade friction is channelled into the WTO's dispute settlement process where the focus is on interpreting agreements and commitments, and how to ensure that countries' trade policies conform with them. That way, the risk of disputes spilling over into political or military conflict is reduced. By lowering trade barriers, the WTO’s system also breaks down other barriers between peoples and nations.   

On 23 January 2017, the amendment to the WTO Trade Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) Agreement marks the first time since the organization opened its doors in 1995 that WTO accords have been amended, and this change should secure for developing countries a legal pathway to access affordable remedies under WTO rules.