The World Trade Organization (WTO) resulted from the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) and is the legal and institutional organization of the multilateral trading system that governs international trade relations between countries at the global level (Evans and Newnham 1998, p. 580). The main bodies of WTO are the Ministerial Conference , the General Council and the Secretariat (WTO (a) 2010, p. 6). The WTO’s aims are the liberalization of global trade through collective and binding rules, the reduction of tariffs and other trade barriers and the elimination of discrimination in international trade relations (WTO (a) 2010, p.1). Currently, the WTO represents a set of rules for trade in goods (GATT), services (GATS) and trade related intellectual property (TRIPS) under a common institutional umbrella (WTO (a) 2010, p. 3-4).
By investigating the literature about the role and influence of the WTO, it becomes clear that the discussion about the organization’s advantages and disadvantages is strongly controversial. Information used to support the WTO is also used by detractors to criticize it. The thesis is that, despite its appalling image, the WTO can make a decisive contribution in bridging the disputes between North and South. It would be very difficult to explain the strengths and weaknesses objectively, without illustrating the historical background of the WTO. Therefore, the next parts of the essay are divided as follows. The first part addresses a brief historical background of the WTO. The second part draws attention to the strengths of the WTO from the perspective of its proponents. The third part points towards the weaknesses of the WTO from the perspective of its opponents. It will become clear that the opinions about the strengths and weakness of the WTO are depending on the perspective of the affected actors. The forth part examines whether its rules, principles and dispute settlement procedures fairly reflect the interests.