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ECONOMICS REPORT — World Trade Organization, Part 2 - 2003-12-04

Broadcast: December 5, 2003

This is Bob Doughty with the VOA Special English Economics Report.

This week: part two of our report on the World Trade Organization. We told about agreements that existed before the W-T-O was established in nineteen-ninety-five. The General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade, or GATT, served as the main set of rules for world trade for more than forty years. Today GATT is still the main rule book for trade in goods.

Nations agreed to form the W-T-O during the eighth round of world trade talks, the eighth since World War Two. The talks opened in nineteen-eighty-six in Uruguay and did not end until nineteen-ninety-four, in Morocco. The first director general of the W-T-O was Peter Sutherland of Ireland. Now it is Supachai Panitchpakdi of Thailand.

The W-T-O tried to launch a ninth round in Seattle, Washington, in nineteen-ninety-nine. Ministers from one-hundred-thirty-five-nations could not agree on the issues to discuss. And opponents of free trade rioted in the streets.

The W-T-O launched the ninth round in Doha, Qatar, in November of two-thousand-one. The Ministerial Conference led to the Doha Development Agenda, a set of issues to discuss to reduce trade barriers. Among these are agriculture and services.

As we said, GATT remains an important set of rules. It is thirty-thousand pages long. But it deals only with import taxes on goods.

A General Agreement on Trade in Services, or GATS, took effect in nineteen-ninety-five. Banking, financial services and telecommunications are some of the areas under this agreement. Many nations bar foreign companies from competing with their own service businesses. This agreement aims to reduce these barriers.

There is also an Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights, or TRIPS. This deals with trade and investment in ideas and research. For example, the holder of a copyright or patent can prevent others from copying creative works or inventions. But, in general, copyrights and patents have legal power only in the country that provided them. So the TRIPS agreement seeks to increase protection of intellectual property rights.

Current world trade negotiations aim to set rules in areas including trade and competition policy, and openness in government purchases.

Our report on the World Trade Organization continues next week. This VOA Special English Economics Report was written by Mario Ritter. This is Bob Doughty.