Analytical Note, December 2003

Institutional Governance and Decision-Making Processes in the WTO.

The WTO’s institutional mandate is clearly spelled out in its founding charter, the 1994 Agreement Establishing the World Trade Organization (WTO Agreement). The preamble of this international treaty stresses that the objectives of the WTO are that:

  •  trade and economic relations among WTO Members “should be conducted with a view to raising standards of living, ensuring full employment and a large and steadily growing volume of real income and effective demand, and expanding the production of and trade in goods and services, while allowing for the optimal use of the world’s resources in accordance with the objective of sustainable development, seeking both to protect and preserve the environment and to enhance the means for doing so in a manner consistent with their respective needs and concerns at different levels of economic development”;
  • “developing, and especially the least developed among them, secure a share in the growth in international trade commensurate with the needs of their economic development.”

In short, the primary objective of the WTO is to serve as the mechanism through which international trade can become the means for supporting the economic development of Members, in particular the developing and leastdeveloped Members.

The economic development of developing countries, and the use of trade to achieve such development, has been a long-standing objective of the multilateral trading system and of the international governance structure of which the WTO is a part. This objective is ultimately rooted in the right of peoples to enjoy “higher standards of living, full employment, andconditions of economic and social progress and development” consistent with the right to sustainable development under international law.


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