The World Trade Organization (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 ensure that trade flows as smoothly, predictably and freely as possible.
What is the WTO?
- Who we are
The WTO has many roles: it operates a global system of trade rules, it acts as a forum for negotiating trade agreements, its settles trade disputes between its members and it supports the needs of developing countries.
- What we do
All major decisions are made by the WTO's member governments: either by ministers (who usually meet at least every two years) or by their ambassadors or delegates (who meet regularly in Geneva).
- What we stand for
A number of simple, fundamental principles form the foundation of the multilateral trading system.
The primary purpose of the WTO is to open trade for the benefit of all.
- Organization chart
The WTO's top decision-making body is the Ministerial Conference. Below this is the General Council and various other councils and committees.
Current WTO chairpersons
Ministerial conferences usually take place every two years.
The General Council is the top day-to-day decision-making body. It meets a number of times a year in Geneva.
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- Members and observers
The WTO has over 160 members representing 98 per cent of world trade. Over 20 countries are seeking to join the WTO.
To join the WTO, a government has to bring its economic and trade policies in line with WTO rules and negotiate its terms of entry with the WTO membership.
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The WTO has approximately 650 staff on its regular budget.back to top
The WTO derives most of the income for its annual budget from contributions by its members. These contributions are based on a formula that takes into account each member's share of international trade.Find out more
Roberto Azevêdo is the sixth Director-General of the WTO. His appointment took effect on 1 September 2013 for a four-year term. In February 2017, WTO members agreed to appoint Mr Azevêdo for a second four-year term, starting on 1 September 2017.Find out more back to top
The four Deputy Directors-General are Yonov Frederick Agah of Nigeria, Karl Brauner of Germany, David Shark of the United States and Yi Xiaozhun of China.Find out more
The WTO is housed in the historic Centre William Rappard building. A new building was added in 2013.Find out more back to top
Procurement at the WTO
The WTO Procurement Section is responsible for obtaining, in a timely and cost-effective manner, goods and services which meet the needs of the organization.Find out more back to top
The WTO and other organizations
Cooperation between multilateral institutions on global economic policy-making.Find out more back to top
The WTO Annual Report provides a comprehensive overview of WTO activities over the past year and includes information on the WTO's budget and staffing.Find out more back to top
Jobs in the WTOback to top
How to contact the WTO
General enquiries, publications, the website. Also copyright and trademark statements.Find out more
Location: Geneva, Switzerland
Established: 1 January 1995
Created by: Uruguay Round negotiations (1986-94)
Membership: countries on
Budget: 197 million Swiss francs for 2015
Secretariat staff: 640
Head: Roberto Azevêdo (Director-General)
- Administering WTO trade agreements
- Forum for trade negotiations
- Handling trade disputes
- Monitoring national trade policies
- Technical assistance and training for developing countries
- Cooperation with other international organizations