What is WTO ?
The World Trade Organization (WTO) stands as the only global organization has legal and organizational powers on international trade. WTO headquarters is located in Geneva and has been active since 1995. The core of the organization is built up by the WTO agreements which directs the world’s trading system. WTO aims to assist all actors of the International ranging from the producers, exporters and importers.
WTO has a multidimensional range of activity, serves as a platform for trade opening, a forum where trade negotiations held by governments. It is an ultimate decision organ on to settlement of the trade disputes and a place where the nations have a chance to solve their trading problems. WTO skeleton was built on the concept of negotiation, as it was seen in the Uruguay Rounds which host the birth of the organization. WTO aims to raise the independence of the worldwide trade hence it focused to abolish the trade barriers, lowering the trade tariffs and abrogate any trade restrictive measures.
World Trade Organization and Consumer Protection
From the consumer’s point of view, World Trade Organization provides a fair and free trade platform among those member countries, thus consumers are expected to benefit from a further opening markets, eg: a lower price of goods and service, or a higher quality of goods and services. However, the governments are also expected to put more efforts on regulating the markets and the trades, to protect the consumers and prevent any inferior and counterfeit products/services. Thus, an effective consumer protection mechanism is important.
Consumers from the member countries of World Trade Organization have opportunities to in touch with more selections of various products and services, including those new technology, high quality and low price items. A fully competitive market also benefit to consumers, as manufacturers and sellers are willing to pay more attention to their own credibility and image, to avoid any reputation and image undermined from international trade. According to a three-year research report (“Consumers and Global Market”) from Consumers International, WTO has constructive effect to its member countries as below:
- In some countries, especially those developing countries, the regulations of World Trade Organization sometimes making negative effects to consumers, e.g.: importing food, healthcare products and medicine.
- WTO trade dispute settlement mechanism and the subsequent threat of trade sanctions, may force some countries to reduce the public health, safety and environmental standards
- When consumers face a wide range of new goods and services, they may not acquire the relevant or corresponding information, hence not in the position to make the right decision on buying goods and services.
- Due to the trade liberalization, the impact of the giant multinational companies is significantly increasing, which may undermine fair competition in the market mechanism, thereby reducing consumer choice and affect the purchasing power, resulting in lower consumer support for free trade.
- Most consumers are not involved in the consumer-related law legislation, as they are not participate in the expression of opinion or being consulted.
- The increasing influence of the trade regulation of World Trade Organization has gradually affected the efforts by the governments, to protect the interests of consumers, or to lower their standard of consumer protection in order to cope with other countries’ standard.
- The cost of dispute settlement in World Trade Organization mechanism usually is high, and it may make some countries to compromise with the giant multinational companies, hence the interest of consumers may be affected.
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