What is the WTO?
It's "How The World Trades"
Let's look at the World Trade Organisation itself. What is it, what does it do, and how does it work?
What's the UK's current position in the organisation, and what could it be? In this article we look at the basics of the WTO in summary form and in plain language.
What is the WTO? What Does It Do?
"The World Trade Organization (WTO) is the only international organization dealing with the global rules of trade between nations. Its main function is to ensure that trade flows as smoothly, predictably and freely as possible."
"The result is assurance. Consumers and producers know that they can enjoy secure supplies and greater choice of the finished products, components, raw materials and services that they use. Producers and exporters know that foreign markets will remain open to them.
"The result is also a more prosperous, peaceful and accountable economic world."
Who is in the WTO?
The WTO has 164 members, comprising 163 countries including the EU28, plus the EU as an institution. The EU is the only member that isn't a country.
28 countries in the WTO have no real voice. The EU Commission effectively speaks for the 28 members states and negotiates on behalf of the EU as a whole. Some would say that this flies in the face of the WTO's aims.
"By lowering trade barriers, the WTO's system also breaks down other barriers between peoples and nations."
"The goal is to improve the welfare of the peoples of the member countries."
How does the WTO work?
"At the heart of the system — known as the multilateral trading system — are the WTO's agreements, negotiated and signed by a large majority of the world's trading nations, and ratified in their parliaments.
These agreements are the legal ground-rules for international commerce. Essentially, they are contracts, guaranteeing member countries important trade rights. They also bind governments to keep their trade policies within agreed limits to everybody's benefit."
The WTO's members are responsible for 98% of world trade.
Where does the UK sit in all of this?
The United Kingdom is a founder member of the WTO. It is therefore already a member and does not have to apply to join when it leavers the EU. As the WTO explains: "The EU is a WTO member in its own right as are each of its member states."
When looking at the UK's position, it is important to remember that the UK is the fifth-largest economy in the World. (France has fallen out of the top five and is now ranked seventh.)
Not surprisingly given its economic power, the UK will have a very important voice within the WTO when it can speak independently on its own behalf.
Remainer MPs are forever decrying the option of the UK leaving the EU in a managed, WTO-based way. As usual, Project Fear tactics have been used on the British people, as they have been used constantly since before the Referendum. In all of the doom-laden claims of Remainer MPs, the public could be forgiven for thinking that the UK will be unable to trade unless it agrees a free trade deal with the EU. In fact it could simply trade like the rest of the World does.
The important thing to remember is that the WTO's members represent 98% of world trade.
We hope that the above gives a reasonable overview for readers of what the WTO is, what it does, and how it's an exciting prospect for a newly-independent United Kingdom.