World Trade Organization (WTO)

The World Trade Organization (WTO) is a powerful global commerce agency, and one of the main mechanisms of corporate globalization. Under the WTO's system of corporate-managed trade, short-run corporate profits dominate social, environmental, labor and other values. The WTO even places limits on our ability to rein in the Wall Street banks that wrecked the economy.


Established in 1995 after the Uruguay Round of global trade talks, the World Trade Organization (WTO) is a powerful global commerce agency that transformed and expanded the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) into an enforceable global commerce code.

In November 1999, the World Trade Organization's (WTO) Third Ministerial Meeting in Seattle collapsed in spectacular fashion, in the face of unprecedented protest from people and governments around the world. These are the events documented (via a fictionalized account) in the Battle in Seattle film. In 2001, the so-called "Doha Round" of WTO expansion negotiations was launched, but these negotiations remain deadlocked more than a decade later. 

In late 2013, despite wide-spread resistance from civil society and opposition from some member countries, the Ninth Ministerial Meeting in Bali resulted in a twenty-third hour rollback of an existing WTO agricultural rule and a commitment for countries to update their customs procedures, as well as the implementation of weak trade benefits for least developed countries that had been agreed to years ago. The lack of a significant consensus demonstrates that the WTO's crisis of legitimacy remains. The WTO and GATT Uruguay Round Agreements have functioned principally to pry open markets for the benefit of transnational corporations at the expense of national and local economies; workers, farmers, indigenous peoples, women and other social groups; health and safety; the environment; and animal welfare. In addition, the WTO system, rules and procedures are undemocratic, un-transparent and non-accountable and have operated to marginalize the majority of the world's people.

Check out our book Whose Trade Organization? to learn more about the WTO's expansive non-trade provisions and their effects on the environment, our health and food safety, jobs and wages, development in poor countries and more.

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WTO Attacks Against U.S. Consumer Safeguards

In a set of recent decisions, the WTO has ruled against U.S. country-of-origin labels on meat, dolphin-safe labels on tuna, and the ban on sweet-flavored cigarettes designed to combat youth smoking. These are the policies we rely on to allow us to protect children's health and make informed decisions as consumers.


WTO Undermining Financial Reregulation

One of the root causes of the global financial crisis has largely been ignored: over the last several decades, the U.S. government and corporations have pushed extreme financial deregulation worldwide using "trade" agreements and international agencies like the WTO.


Global Movement to Turn Around the WTO

A worldwide network of organizations, activists and social movements are committed to challenging trade and investment agreements that advance the interests of the world's most powerful corporations at the expense of democracy, people, and the environment.

Public Citizen Factsheets, Reports & Memos


Public Citizen Press Releases & Statements


Members of Congress Speak Out


Civil Society Organizations Speak Out


Take Action!

Sign the Consumer Rights Pledge

Shine the spotlight on the WTO's attack on consumer rights: Take the pledge today! By taking action can we make sure that the Obama administration and Congress do not bow to the WTO orders.