Understanding how World Trade Organisation works

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By Roncliffe Odit 

Kenya is set to host the 10th World Trade Organization Ministerial Conference in less than a week.

And as the preparations from various member states continue, Kenyans are optimistic that the WTO conference will come with goodies and improve trade environment with other WTO member states.  

The World Trade Organization WTO is an international intergovernmental organization dealing with the formulation and implementation of international trade rules. The international body that came into existence in 1995 also deals with the arbitration of trade disputes between its members.

The WTO objectives include, but not limited to raising the standards of living for member states, ensuring full employment, large and steadily growing trade in goods and services, while respecting needs and concerns at different levels of economic development.

Since its existence the WTO has helped member states eradicate trade barriers. For instance, Kenya has achieved much by being able to sell its coffee to European market without many barriers, thanks to WTO policies.

At the same time, most developing countries have been allowed additional freedom in order to subsidize exports as part of the signed agreements between member states. Every 2 years, Trade Ministers from member states meet, the last time they met was in 2013 in Bali, Indonesia, the highlight being welcoming Yemen to the WTO.

The business of the WTO is conducted through the Ministerial Conference, which is the highest decision making body of the organization. The Conference is held every two years and this will the 1st ever to be held in African soil.

The conference will provide a forum for negotiating agreements aimed at reducing obstacles to international trade and ensuring a level playing field for all, thus contributing to economic growth and development.

The WTO also provides a legal and institutional framework for settling disputes arising from international trade among the member states. The Kenya national Chamber of Commerce and Industry says Kenya is set to benefit greatly from hosting the conference by showcasing what it has to offer in terms of global trade as well as investment opportunities for the global market.

The 10th Ministerial Conference takes place at the backdrop of the global entrepreneurship summit that was hosted by President Uhuru Kenyatta and US President Barrack Obama early this year. And with its current membership standing at 162, the WTO is the largest global trade body coming to Kenya.

Seychelles is the newest member having joined on 26th April 2015. Eritrea, Palestine, North Korea, South Sudan and Somalia are among the countries that are not members of the WTO.

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