Trade Issues (WTO)
Among the international organizations here in Geneva the World Trade Organization (WTO) is rather special: Its unique role to liberalize and regulate global trade is underpinned by the ability to enforce the agreements and trade rules through a clear dispute settlement system; this brings the WTO to the forefront of the global governance debate. In spite of some criticism, the WTO is a member-driven, democratic institution, with decisions taken by consensus among all member governments. Since 2005, Pascal LAMY (France) is the Director General of the WTO. With currently 157 members and some 25 candidate countries the WTO has become a global player.
What are the main responsibilities of the WTO? In one sentence, the World Trade Organization establishes and monitors the rules of trade between nations. This means it is
- an organization for liberalizing trade,
- a platform to negotiate trade agreements (currently, the so-called Doha Round),
- a place to settle trade disputes, and
- it operates and administrates a system of trade rules.
The tasks and objectives of the WTO unit within the Permanent Mission of Austria in Geneva concentrate on the representation and perception of Austrian interests in the WTO trade negotiations as well as in the administration and application of existing trade rules. Experts of the Austrian Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs, Family and Youth participate in more than 40 WTO bodies (Committees and Working Groups) and negotiation groups. A further track of activities focuses on the internal coordination process among EU Member states, as the negotiating competence for trade policy belongs to the European Commission.