Wednesday, December 21, 2011

WTO Admits New Members

Organization: World Trade Organization
Countries in Question: Vanuatu, Russia, Montenegro, Samoa
News Categories: Intergovernmental Organizations
Summary: The World Trade Organization, the intergovernmental organization supervising international trade between the majority of the world's countries, admitted one new member last October, and three more last week. Especially notable was the admission last Friday of Russia, which was by far the largest economy not to have joined previously.

Full Story
While some intergovernmental organizations, such as the U.N. or regional unions, were created for general purposes of cooperation between states, others serve more specific purposes. The World Trade Organization (WTO) is one of these, acting as a venue for countries to agree on rules for international trade. Among its members, economic agreements are subject to rules aimed at liberalizing international trade, and trade-related disputes are also arbitrated through the organization. Formed in 1995 as a replacement for weaker trade treaties of the past, by 2008 the WTO represented approximately 80% of the world's independent countries.

World Trade Organization members in green. Countries joining this year in brighter green, with small countries circled. Modified from this Wikimedia map (license: CC BY-SA).

This October, the WTO grew for the first time in three years, with the acceptance of the Pacific island country of Vanuatu's as a member. Just last week, three more countries joined: Russia, Montenegro, and Samoa. Samoa is another small Pacific island country, and Montenegro was only formed a few years ago from the final breakup of former Yugoslavia. Russia, however, has gained much attention for being the last of the world's major economic powers to join the organization. Although it first applied for admission to the group 18 years ago, before the modern WTO was even formed, until recently Russia was slow to proceed with membership negotiations. For the last few years, it was blocked from entry by Georgia, a WTO member protesting its invasion by Russia during the 2008 war between the two countries, but that hurdle was finally crossed after a Swiss-brokered agreement between Russia and Georgia earlier this year. Although the four new countries have been accepted by the organization, their governments will still have to ratify the agreements in order for them to become full participating members.