The World Trade Organization (WTO) celebrated Thursday the 20th anniversary of its foundation to be the only global international organization dealing with the rules of trade between nations.
"Over the past 20 years, this organization has, on balance, made an important contribution to the global economy and to smoother trading relations between nations," WTO Director-General Roberto Azevedo said in a press conference.
"20 years ago, on 1 January 1995, the WTO opened its doors for business. Since then this organization, and the system of transparent, multilaterally-agreed rules that it embodies, has made a major contribution to the strength and stability of the global economy," Azevedo said in a press release from the WTO headquarters in Geneva.
He pointed that the WTO, over the past two decades, has helped to boost trade growth, resolve numerous trade disputes and support developing countries to integrate into the trading system.
"Indeed, when the global economy is more interconnected than ever, it is difficult to imagine a world without the WTO," he said.
Azevedo added that the WTO has also provided a bulwark against protectionism, the value of which was made plain in the trade policy response to the 2008 crisis, which was very calm and restrained in contrast to the protectionist panic that followed previous crises.
"Our organization has evolved since 1995. We have welcomed 33 new members, ranging from some of world's largest economies to some of the least developed. Today our 160 members account for approximately 98 per cent of global trade," he explained.
"Moreover, at our 9th Ministerial Conference in Bali in 2013, we took our first major step forward in updating multilateral trade rules." The measures agreed in Bali were a real breakthrough for the WTO, and they will provide a significant economic boost. In December 2014 WTO Members came together to recommit to implementing all aspects of the Bali package.
According to Azevedo, 2015 is set to be an eventful year for the WTO.
"We will be working to implement all aspects of the Bali package and we already have a full negotiating agenda - including a deadline of July to conclude a detailed road map to tackle the remaining issues of the Doha Development Agenda," he said.
"The WTO will also be seeking to make progress in negotiations on trade in environmental goods and on an agreement to remove tariffs on a wide range of information technology products."