Administering WTO Agreements

There are about 60 agreements and understandings, protocols, decisions in the WTO most of which are the results of the 1986–94 Uruguay Round negotiations. The WTO Agreements are equally binding and enforceable between all WTO Members. 


As it can be seen from the picture below, there is one agreement establishing the WTO and other agreements are attached to it. The substantive WTO Agreements cover 3 major areas: trade in goods, trade in services and trade-related intellectual property rights. 




Main agreements for these 3 areas are the General Agreement in Tariffs and Trade 1994 ("GATT 1994"), General Agreement in Trade and Services ("GATS") and Trade Related Intellectual Property Rights ("TRIPS"). The GATT 1994 and GATS are accompanied by members’ specific commitments written into their schedules. The dispute settlement mechanism is common for all areas and is governed by an Understanding. There is also an agreement on the Trade Policy Review Mechanism annexed to the umbrella WTO agreement.


There are some 12 agreements on trade in goods including the Agreements on Agriculture, Sanitary and Phytosanitary Measures, Customs Valuation, Anti-dumping and others. 


These agreements can be classified as multilateral and plurilateral agreements for their coverage of the Membership. Multilateral agreements are binding on all members. Most WTO agreements are of multilateral character. There are a number of Plurilateral WTO agreements which apply only to members who negotiated or voluntarily acceded to them. These agreements are the Agreement on Trade in Civil Aircraft, the Agreement on Government Procurement and Information Technology Agreement ("ITA"). The Civil Aircraft Agreement has 32 signatories, while the Government Procurement Agreement has 19 members and ITA covers 82 parties. There were two additional plurilateral agreements, but are not in force anymore.


The WTO Agreements were concluded with a view to their implementation, of course. WTO has special bodies –committees, councils and working parties – to review implementation and ensure that Members are implementing and complying with the provisions of those WTO agreements. These councils, committees and working parties are open to all WTO members.


For example, the WTO Committee on Sanitary and Phytosanitary Measures (the ‘SPS Committee’) facilitates consultations or negotiations among members on specific SPS matters, encourages the use of international standards, guidelines or recommendations and coordinates with the international standard-setting bodies to this end to achieve the full implementation of the Agreement by members.