Martin Khor and José Antonio Ocampo

Initiative for Policy Dialogue, June 2009


The World Trade Organization (WTO) was created in April 1994 by the Marrakesh Agreement, which concluded eight years of negotiations of the Uruguay Round. Since then, the WTO has been widely taken to be the embodiment of the multilateral trading system. In fact the WTO is only a part (though of course, a very significant part) of the global trade architecture. There are also other institutions (especially the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development, UNCTAD) and other agreements (in particular the regional and bilateral trade agreements) that are part of the trade architecture. Although the WTO covers many trade issues, it does not cover some crucial trade areas such as the issue of commodities and their related problems of instability of prices and demand, an issue that has been traditionally covered by UNCTAD and was subject in the past to a series of commodity agreements. Moreover, the mandate of the WTO also covers non-trade subjects such as intellectual property rights and the investment component of services. Thus, it is interesting to note that the WTO is less than the multilateral trade system, and also more than it.

View the paper hereThe Global Trade Architecture and the Developing World