Professor of International Economic Governance,
Institute of Advanced Studies,
United Nations University
Gary P. Sampson
In January 1995, the World Trade Organization (WTO) became the successor to the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT). Seven years of intensive negotiations in the Uruguay Round gave birth to an organization with vastly expanded responsibilities for international economic affairs. The WTO is undeniably a major player in the field of global governance, and its rules and processes will profoundly affect the future economic and political orientation of its 139 member countries 1 as well as of the 30 countries in the process of joining.
By many objective criteria the WTO—and the GATT before it— have been remarkably successful at doing what they were mandated to do: liberalize trade and conduct international trade according to multilaterally agreed rules. Nevertheless, questions of a very fundamental nature are being raised about the role of the WTO in international affairs by a wide spectrum of interest groups. The manner in which these questions are addressed in the coming months and years will determine the role of the WTO in global governance. 2 It is not the intention of this Overview to summarize the contents of the following chapters or to draw conclusions. Rather I want to flag some of the principal policy issues that emerge when a selection of prominent people with different perspectives consider the role of the WTO in global governance.