Law and Policy Overview – Opinion – The Guardian Nigeria News – Nigeria and World News
No nation or country in the world is economically independent or self-sufficient. It is always necessary to trade with other countries to increase the gross domestic product (GDP) of a country and improve the standard of living of its citizens. Trade can be bilateral, regional, international or global, and each has its own rules and regulations. We focus here specifically on world trade and on knowing the institution that regulates this trade: the World Trade Organization (WTO).
The essence of this publication is first of all to awaken public interest in this world organization and to shed light on its law and policy. Second, to encourage academic interest in the study and knowledge of this subject, which in my opinion is not commonly listed as a taught course in the curricula of higher education institutions of the Faculty of Law, under the Department of Public International Law, to which it rightly belongs. Third, given its importance in the global economy, a full knowledge of this course can potentially lead to an intentional career path or help prepare young Nigerians and others interested in taking advantage of the opportunities offered at the WTO for developing and least developed countries. in the 21st century, thereby bridging the existing gap for more urgent engagement, if needed.
The emergence of the World Trade Organization
The World Trade Organization is the successor to the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT), a multilateral trading system that was put in place in 1947 in the aftermath of the economic devastation of World War II, to rebuild the world economy through increased trade through the reduction of tariffs on goods between member countries, thus encouraging the free movement of goods. Initially, the GATT was intended for negotiating the reduction of tariffs on goods only, subsequently negotiations in other areas of trade, including non-tariff measures, were included.
Several rounds of trade negotiations took place among member countries to achieve this goal, but it was the 1986-1994 round of trade negotiations, “the Uruguay Round”, that became the catalyst for the creation of the EU. World Trade Organization after 123 countries signed the WTO Agreement on April 14, 1994, in Marrakesh. This agreement entered into force and entered into force on January 1, 1995, and the World Trade Organization officially came into being.
The objectives of the WTO
The political objectives of the WTO are anchored in the preamble to the WTO Agreement, some of which include reducing poverty and raising the standard of living of its members, steadily growing the volume of real incomes and effective demand, expansion of trade in goods and services, sustainability economic development that takes into account environmental and social concerns (at different levels of economic development), and also to ensure that developing countries and least developed countries are integrated and participate in the world trading system. Essentially, the main aim and objective of the WTO is to liberalize and encourage free trade among member countries and to enable the free flow of goods and services in order to improve the world economy.
The nature of the agreement within the framework of the WTO
There are two types of trade agreements within the framework of the WTO. These are multilateral and plurilateral trade agreements and different rules apply to their regulations. They are contained in the annexes of the WTO and they are:
– Multilateral Agreements on Trade in Goods (Annex 1A)
– General Agreement on Trade in Services (Annex 1B) and
– Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (Annex 1C).
The agreements in Annexes 1A, 1B and 1C are generally referred to as multilateral or covered agreements, and they are binding on all members of the WTO. Indeed, membership of the WTO is conditional on acceptance of these multilateral agreements.
Plurilateral trade agreements are listed in Annex 4 of the WTO Agreement. These are voluntary agreements between WTO members who choose to be parties to these agreements. Membership of the WTO is not subject to acceptance of these plurilateral agreements. On the other hand, plurilateral trade agreements are only binding on WTO members who are parties to these agreements.
When the WTO entered into force in 1995, there were initially four plurilateral trade agreements:
(1) Agreement on Trade in Civil Aircraft
(2) Agreement on government procurement
(3) Agreement on International Dairy Products
(4) Agreement relating to international bovine meat.
The last two agreements (Dairy products and Beef) were terminated at the end of 1997, leaving the first two agreements mentioned above – Trade in civil aircraft and Government procurement. To date, these are the only two plurilateral trade agreements in existence.
Decision-making at the WTO
Suffice it to say that the WTO does not have an executive body or body, which consists of a few, but the most important, and a selection of other members to make decisions and negotiate on behalf of all the members of that organization, as can be achieved in some other international organizations. Decision-making in the WTO is member-driven and consensus-based, and the negative consensus method adopted by the WTO enables members to make positive and speedy decisions. Although the WTO Agreement provides for voting, in practice Members have always opted for decisions based on consensus, following the practice of its predecessor, the GATT. Where the vote is exercised, which is rare, it is an exception, not a norm.
Trade rules and trade dispute settlement at the WTO
WTO law is a complex set of rules governing world trade. These rules include the principles of non-discrimination, market access rules and protection against unfair trade, to name but a few. These rules are set by the members themselves, therefore high compliance with these rules is expected.
However, sometimes disputes can arise where a member alleges that its respective rights and obligations under the WTO covered agreement have been violated. The WTO provides for the settlement of trade disputes between its members.
Members are not allowed to engage in unilateral conduct for the settlement of trade disputes, but multilaterally, and this is regulated by the Understanding on Rules and Procedures Governing the Settlement of Disputes, commonly referred to as the “DSU. ‘Agreement on the Settlement of Disputes (DSU) “contained in Annex 2 of the WTO Agreement. The DSU provides for various means of dispute settlement, including means of amicable consultation or negotiation, good offices, conciliation and mediation, arbitration or arbitration of panels and the Appeals body.
The dispute settlement system is binding in nature under the rules of the DSU, therefore members’ disputes are settled internally under the exclusive jurisdiction of the WTO. This settlement system is a central element in ensuring the security and predictability of the multilateral trading system. The speedy resolution of such disputes is essential for the effective functioning of the WTO and for maintaining a fair balance between the rights and obligations of members.
Sometimes these covered agreements provide for some special and additional rules and procedures to deal with the particularities of a specific covered agreement that are different from the DSU procedures. Nonetheless, they combine with the generally applicable rules and procedures of the DSU to form a comprehensive and integrated dispute settlement system for the Agreement covered by the WTO or the Multilateral Agreement.
To be continued tomorrow
Lawyer Udoh, PhD, studied WTO law at the University of Edinburgh, UK.