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.

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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.
  • Overview
    The primary purpose of the WTO is to open trade for the benefit of all.
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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.
  • Accessions  
    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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WTO Secretariat

The WTO has approximately 650 staff on its regular budget.

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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.

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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.

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Deputy Directors-General

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.

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WTO BuildingThe WTO building

The WTO is housed in the historic Centre William Rappard building. A new building was added in 2013.

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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.

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The WTO and other organizations

Cooperation between multilateral institutions on global economic policy-making.

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Annual report

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.

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Jobs in the WTO

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How to contact the WTO

General enquiries, publications, the website. Also copyright and trademark statements.

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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