The World Trade Organization (WTO) was established on 1 January 1995 in order to deal with the rules of trade between nations at a global or near-global level. Its aim is to "help trade flow smoothly, freely, fairly and predictably". It was created by Uruguay Round negotiations (1986-94) and replaced the "General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT)" which was signed (initially by 23 nations) in 1947.
The World Trade Organization comprises presently 159 members (20 more states are under accession's negotiations) and its agreements cover goods, services and intellectual property. A member of GATT since 1949 (2nd Round, Annecy Tariff Conference), Greece joined the WTO as a founding member. Initially as European Communities and, since 2009, European Union, the EU is also a founding member of the WTO, whereas its 28 member-states are members of the organization in their own right.
The WTO’s top level decision-making body is the Ministerial Conference which usually meets every two years. It brings together all members of the WTO, either countries or customs unions. The Ministerial Conference takes decisions on all matters under any of the multilateral trade agreements. The 9th Ministerial Conference is due to be held in Bali, Indonesia from 3 to 6 December 2013. The General Council (Geneva based, at Ambassadorial and Heads of Delegation level, or, capital based, at Officials level), meets several times a year in the Geneva headquarters.
The WTO’s rules — the Agreements — are the result of negotiations between the members. The set in function is the outcome of the intergovernmental negotiations of the 1986–94 Uruguay Round, leading to a major revision of the original General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT).
At the 4th WTO Ministerial Conference in Doha, Qatar, in November 2001, the Doha Round negotiations (Doha Development Agenda) were initiated. The scope of the negotiations included non-agricultural tariffs, trade and environment, WTO rules such as anti-dumping and subsidies, investment, competition policy, trade facilitation, transparency in government procurement, intellectual property, and a range of issues raised by developing countries as difficulties they face in implementing the cureent WTO agreements. This round is not yet concluded.