History, mandate, principal purposes and recent developments: The World Trade Organization (WTO), heir of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT), has been created by the agreements of Marrakech at the end of the Uruguay Round in 1994., which has been the most important reform in international trade since the second post-war period, aiming at liberalizing world trade. The Organization consists of 164 Members, divided into States and Customs Union. After the accession of the Russian Federation in 2012 and Kazakhstan in 2015, all the most important economies of the world belong to the WTO. The aim of the WTO is the promotion of trade liberalization in order to achieve economic growth and sustainable development. For this purpose, the Members negotiate the reduction and elimination of barriers (both tariff and non-tariff) to trade, monitor the observance of the commitments undertaken, solve the disputes providing certainty and predictability to the system, sustain the integration of Developing and Least Developed Countries in the multilateral trade system and encourage the accession process of other countries.
The negative effects of globalization, the resurgent protectionism and the ongoing paralysis of the Appellate Body are stress-testing the three WTO functions. Born at the dawn of globalization, the WTO was only partially able to “govern” it and it is now facing its negative consequences: confronted with the rapid changes imposed by technological development and with those of the “tariffs” war started by the Trump Administration and of the Covid-19 pandemic the WTO is in urgent need of a reform in order to update the rule-book of the Multilateral Trading System and adapt it to the 21st century’s needs (a striking example is e-commerce, which to date has no clear rules), help the social and economic recovery from the Covid-19 pandemics and contribute to the implementation of Agenda 2030 (in particular, through the negotiation on fisheries subsidies). An important test in this regard will be the next Ministerial Conference (MC12) that, initially scheduled for June 2020 in Nur Sultan and then for December 2021 in Geneva, has been postponed again due to the ongoing pandemic.
Italian participation: Italy is a founding member of the WTO and its tenth contributor. As a Member of the European Union, Italy actively participates in the definition of the common positions of the 27 Member States on the different topics of the Organization. Currently, Italy supports the conclusion of multilateral negotiations for the elimination of fisheries subsidies and the plurilateral initiatives to define new rules in digital commerce, in the facilitation of investments and services and in favour of SMEs. Italy defends a two-level dispute resolution system with a functioning Appellate Body.
In particular, Italy focuses on the protection of specific interests related to industrial products, agriculture, services and intellectual property rights. Italy is fully committed in the promotion of the multilateral trade system’s transparency and the Organization’s efficiency.
Director General: On February 15 2021, the Nigerian Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, was appointed as Director General. She is the first African woman to head the organization; previously she served as Minister of Finance in Nigeria and as Chairwoman of the Board of the Global Vaccine Alliance (GAVI).
Working at the WTO: For information on career opportunities at the WTO, please visit the web page of the Organization WTO| Working at the WTO