This is the VOA Special English Economics Report.
A question from Vietnam. Listener Nguyen Minh Tan wants to know more about
the World Trade Organization and its history.
The World Trade
Organization came into existence in nineteen ninety-five. It operates a system
of trade rules. It serves as a place for nations to settle disputes and
negotiate agreements to reduce trade barriers. The newest of its 150 members,
Vietnam, joined in January.
But the roots of the W.T.O. date back to World War Two and the years that
In 1944, a meeting took place in Bretton Woods, New Hampshire: the
International Monetary Conference. There, negotiators agreed to create the
International Monetary Fund and the World Bank. But they could not agree on an
organization to deal with international trade.
Three years later, in 1947, twenty-three nations approved the General
Agreement on Tariffs and Trade, or GATT. It was meant to be temporary. Trade
negotiations under GATT were carried out in a series of talks called rounds. The
first round lowered import taxes on one-fifth of world trade. Later rounds
produced additional cuts, and negotiators added more issues.
The sixth round began in 1963. It was called the Kennedy Round after the
murder of President John F. Kennedy. The results included an agreement against
trade dumping. This is when one country sells a product in another country at an
unfairly low price.
The eighth round of talks began in Punta del Este, Uruguay, in 1986. The
Uruguay Round lasted almost twice as long as planned. In all, one hundred
twenty-three nations took part in seven-and-a-half years of work. They set time
limits for future negotiations. They also agreed to create a permanent system to
settle trade disputes.
In April of nineteen ninety-four, most of those 123 nations signed an
agreement. It replaced GATT with the World Trade Organization.
The W.T.O. launched a new round on development issues in Doha, Qatar, in
November of 2001. These talks were supposed to end by January of 2005. But
negotiators could not agree on issues involving agricultural protections. The
current round has been suspended since last July.
And that's the VOA Special English Economics Report, written by Mario Ritter. Next week, more about the
W.T.O. I'm Bob Doughty.