World Trade Organization (WTO) – is an international economic organization dealing with multilateral trade in goods, services and intellectual property.
The WTO is the successor to the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT), which was signed by 23 countries in Geneva in October 1947 and entered into force on 1 January 1948.
GATT provided for further liberalization of trade by reducing import tariffs. For the period of 47 years (before the creation of the WTO), the main legal text of GATT remained as it was adopted in 1948. In addition to the document some multilateral agreements with a limited number of participants were adopted.
At present, the rules and principles of the GATT/WTO multilateral trade agreements serve the basis for regulation of export-import relationships in more than 150 countries. WTO rules are also a guide for the development and implementation of national laws and regulations related to foreign trade.
The organization itself is a forum for discussion and establishment of rules and principles of international trade.
The WTO was established on the 1 January 1995. In accordance with the Marrakesh Agreement Establishing the WTO (signed on 15 April 1994), 125 Members to the GATT became the founders of the WTO.
On 6 March 2013, 159 countries were WTO Members, and more than 20 states had the status of WTO Observers. Majority of observer governments, including the Republic of Belarus, ha started negotiations on accession to the WTO. The Russian Federation became a member of the WTO on August, 22, 2012.