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The World Trade Organization (WTO), the only international organization dealing with the rules of trade between nations, consists of 164 members (as of July 2016) that agree with the principles of the WTO. Autonomous governments wishing to join the WTO (or “accede” to the WTO) must submit a formal request to the General Council of the WTO and undergo a rigorous examination process, in addition to participating in multilateral and bilateral negotiations with members of the Working Party.
The United States promotes WTO accessions and free trade by serving on the Working Party for the majority of the 19 accessions currently in progress. The United States also participates in bilateral agreements with the acceding countries. (Note: Although the United States participates in bilateral agreements with acceding nations, the United States does not make concessions- the acceding countries make unilateral concessions.) Key areas in the bilateral negotiations are tariffs, non-tariff barriers, and WTO Rules commitments. The negotiated agreements are then included in the “final accession package” to be approved by the General Council or the Ministerial Conference before the acceding nation’s membership is decided.
Why do countries join the WTO?
- National treatment of goods and services
- Increased market access
- Dispute settlement
- Equal footing among other WTO members
For more information on WTO accessions currently in progress, visit the WTO’s website.
Role of the Office of Trade Negotiations and Analysis
The role of OTNA in the WTO Accession process is to:
- Analyze industrial market access tariff offers to ensure that tariff concession result in meaningful benefits to U.S. industry;
- Identify non-tariff barriers affecting U.S. exports;
- Review import regulations for WTO compliance.