Extending the Boundaries of WTO Governance

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Lucy Eugene


The World Trade Organization (WTO), established January, 1995, is the principal multilateral trade regime responsible for the regulation of global trade activity. As the successor organization to the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT), its elaborated legal structure consists of rules, principles and procedures which provides a code of conduct for Members (States) participation in international economic exchanges. The achievement of trade liberalization in the areas of goods, services and intellectual property, has informed the development of a code which relies on the adoption of market principles, premised on the economic philosophy of free trade and comparative advantage. Indeed, in its functioning, the new rules-based system is primarily concerned with the balancing and assertion of rights and obligations by its Members. Employing a state-to-state framework of governance, the interpretation of its rules by the dispute mechanism seeks to ensure competitive trade opportunities, more so than the promotion of actual trade volumes. Any permitted exceptions allowing for the pursuit of policy objectives (both nationally and internationally), are therefore subject to strict interpretation.

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