The World Trade Organization (WTO) is the international organization whose primary purpose is to open trade for the benefit of all. It is the successor to the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT).
Mauritius has been a member of the WTO since its inception in 1995 and is part of different configurations at the WTO namely the African Group, the ACP Group, the G-90, the G-33, the Small Vulnerable Economies (SVEs) group, amongst others.
The WTO aims at helping trade flow smoothly, freely, fairly and predictably through:
The WTO is guided by 2 main principles namely:
The Doha Development Round or Doha Development Agenda (DDA) is the current trade-negotiation round of the WTO which commenced in November 2001. Its objective is to lower trade barriers around the world, which allows countries to increase trade globally.
The negotiations are organized into different Trade Negotiations Committees on the following main issues:
The status on the negotiations of the different committees can be obtained from the WTO website on Trade Negotiations Committee.
The WTO's top-level decision-making body is the Ministerial Conference, which usually meets every two years. Below this is the General Council (normally ambassadors and heads of delegation in Geneva, and sometimes officials sent from members' capitals), which meets several times a year in the Geneva headquarters. The General Council also meets as the Trade Policy Review Body and the Dispute Settlement Body.
At the next level, the Goods Council, Services Council and Intellectual Property (TRIPS) Council report to the General Council. Numerous specialized committees, working groups and working parties deal with the individual agreements and other areas such as the environment, development, membership applications and regional trade agreements. All WTO members may participate in all councils and committees, with the exceptions of the Appellate Body, Dispute Settlement panels and plurilateral committees.
The current body of WTO trade agreements consists of 16 different multilateral agreements (to which all WTO members are parties) and two different plurilateral agreements (to which only some WTO members are parties).
The main substantive agreements are:
The latest addition to the WTO body of law is the WTO Agreement on Trade Facilitation Agreement (TFA). WTO members concluded negotiations on this landmark agreement at the 2013 Bali Ministerial Conference. The TFA which entered into force on 22 February 2017 following its ratification by two-thirds of the WTO membership, contains provisions for expediting the movement, release and clearance of goods, including goods in transit. It also sets out measures for effective cooperation between customs and other appropriate authorities on trade facilitation and customs compliance issues. It further contains provisions for technical assistance and capacity building in this area. Mauritius deposited its instrument of acceptance of the TFA on 5 March 2015.
The WTO Agreement on Fisheries Subsidies was adopted at the 12 th Ministerial Conference (MC12) on 17 June 2022 in Geneva. The Agreement marks a major step forward for ocean sustainability by prohibiting harmful fisheries subsidies, which are a key factor in the widespread depletion of the world's fish stocks. The Agreement represents a historic achievement for the WTO membership as it is the first WTO agreement to focus on the environment, the first broad, binding, multilateral agreement on ocean sustainability, and only the second agreement reached at the WTO since its inception.
For the Agreement to become operational, two-thirds of members have to deposit their "instruments of acceptance" with the WTO. WTO Members also agreed to continue negotiations on outstanding issues such as disciplines on subsidies contributing to overcapacity and overfishing and special and differential treatment, with a view to further enhance the disciplines of the Agreement.
Monitoring of national trade policies for all Members is an important activity of the WTO. This exercise is carried out through the Trade Policy Review Mechanism (TPRM). The objectives of the TPRM include facilitating the smooth functioning of the multilateral trading system by enhancing the transparency of WTO members' trade policies.
All WTO members are subject to review under the TPRM. The frequency of each country is reviewed varies according to its share of world trade. As a result of an amendment to Annex 3 of the Marrakesh Agreement in July 2017, the review cycles are as follows since 1 January 2019: the four Members with the largest shares of world trade will be reviewed each three years, the next 16 Members will be reviewed each five years, and others will be reviewed each seven years. As such, Mauritius is reviewed every 7 years.