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The World Trade Organization (WTO) was established by the Marrakesh Agreement, as part of the Final Act containing the results of the Uruguay Round of Multilateral Trade Negotiations. It started with work on January 1, 1995, and it is successor of the General Agreement on Customs and Trade of 1947 (GATT, 1947).

Agreement Establishing the WTO, with accompanying annexes, regulates the institutional work of the Organization. In comparison with the founding documents, the Trade Facilitation Agreement was the first multilateral agreement adopted after the Uruguay Round of negotiations. It is attached to the Annex 1A and classified after the Agreement on Safeguards. It entered into force on 22 February 2017, in accordance with paragraph 3 of Article X of the Agreement Establishing the WTO.

Annex 1

Annex 1A: Multilateral Agreements on Trade in Goods

-General Agreement on Trade and Tariffs (GATT 1994)
-Agreement on Agriculture
-Agreement on Sanitary and Phytosanitary Measures -Agreement on Textiles and Clothing (Note: this Agreement was terminated on 1 January -2005)
-Agreement on Technical Barriers to Trade
-Trade-Related Investment Measures (TRIMs)
-Agreement on Implementation of Article VI of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade 1994 (Antidumping)
-Agreement on Implementation of Article VII of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade 1994 (Customs Valuation)
-Agreement on Preshipment Inspection
-Agreement on Rules of Origin
-Agreement on Import Licensing
-Agreement on Subsidies and Countervailing Measures
-Agreement on Safeguards
-Trade Facilitation Agreement

Annex 1B: General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS) with Annexes

Annex 1C: Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS)( with amendments on 23 January 2017)
Annex 2: Dispute Settlement Understanding

Annex 3: Trade Policy Review Mechanism

Annex 4: Plurilateral Trade Agreements

-Agreement on Trade in Civil Aircraft
-Agreement on Government Procurement 
-International Dairy Agreement (this Agreement was terminated end 1997)
-International Bovine Meat Agreement(this Agreement was terminated end 1997)

The WTO legal basis, beside “Final Act” which shapes the results of the Uruguay Round of negotiations, makes the Ministerial declarations, decisions and detailed Schedules of Concessions (commitments / concessions) for each member individually. Schedules of Concessions/Commitments in Services define market access for the foreign products and foreign service providers.

The official language of the WTO is English, French and Spanish. In the case of interpretation of any legal text or dispute between members, translation of acts into the languages of the member states shall not be taken into account. Here you can download WTO legal texts.

Agreement Establishing the WTO implies two categories of WTO members, the original and the other members.

Article XI of the Agreement Establishing the WTO stipulates that the original members, i.e. founders of the WTO, are considered to be a members that meet the following conditions: to be a contracting parties of the GATT 1947 on the date of entry into force of the Agreement, to accept the Agreement and multilateral trade agreements and to have their schedule of concessions annexed to GATT 1994 and schedule of specific commitments in services annexed to the GATS. Paragraph 2 of the same article stipulates that the least developed countries undertake obligations and concessions to the level consistent with their individual development, financial and trade needs, as well as administrative and institutional capacities (the least developed countries had the deadline by April 1995 to schedules of concessions).

Other members accede to the WTO in accordance with Article XII of the Agreement Establishing the WTO and under the conditions agreed with the WTO Members during the accession process. The accession process for each country is special, has different complexity and duration. A number of countries that have been passed through the complex accession process since 1995. Negotiations begin with the submission of the Request by the country expressing the willingness for accession. The General Council of the WTO considers the application and makes a decision on the establishment of the Working Group. After the establishment of the Working Group, the candidate country is obliged to provide a set of information and documents on the basis of which a clear picture of all aspects of its foreign trade and economic policy is obtained. After many years of negotiations, the process is completed by submitting the Final Report of the Working Group and adopting the Decision on Accession, whereby the Protocol of Accession shall enter into force. The candidate country approaches the WTO thirty days after signing the Protocol or by depositing the instrument of ratification, and depending on the internal legal system of each country.

More information about WTO members, observers and countries that are in the process of accession can be found here.