The 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 January 1, 1948.
The GATT provided for further liberalization of trade by reducing import tariffs. For the period of 47 years (before the establishment of the WTO), the main legal text of the GATT remained as it was adopted in 1948. In addition to the document several plurilateral agreements with a limited number of participants were adopted.
At present, the rules and principles of the GATT/WTO multilateral trade agreements constitute the basis for regulation of export-import relationships in more than 160 countries. The WTO rules also serve as the guidelines for the development and implementation of national laws and regulations related to trade and economic relations.
The organization provides to its member governments a forum for negotiating global rules and reducing trade barriers.
The WTO was officially commenced on January 1, 1995. In accordance with the Marrakesh Agreement establishing the WTO (signed on April 15, 1994), the 75 existing GATT Members and the European Communities became the founders of the WTO.
There are 164 full-fledged WTO Members: 160 states and 4 customs territories. 22 states had the status of WTO observers. The overwhelming majority of the observer governments, including the Republic of Belarus, have started negotiations on accession to the WTO.