The World Trade Organization is the only international trade organization at present. Since its creation in 1995 it has brought positive effects on international trade by providing surveillance on state trade-related practices and by providing grounds for diplomatic negotiations. It is also the defender of important principles of trade liberalization, including the Most-favored Treatment and National Treatment. Critics, however, point out to the failure of the Doha Round to reach any meaningful agreement as evidence to the decline of the World Trade Organization. However, recent successes of the WTO seem to indicate otherwise.
On December, 2011 the WTO granted membership to Russia. According to a New York Times article, Russia, a major oil and natural gas exporter, was the last of the major world economies to join the organization. In 2008, the sixteenth year of negotiations, Moscow had declared that it no longer would seek membership to the WTO. Not long after, Russia put extensive efforts to bring its laws into conformity to WTO laws. The success of the WTO to bring Russia to join and the fact that at present all major economies are members to the organization are powerful leverages to the organization’s legitimacy.
Not a few days ago the United States negotiated a groundbreaking deal with China to eliminate tariffs on information technology products. U.S. negotiators were hopeful that the agreement would encourage other countries to accept similar terms and would therefore expand WTO agreement on these products. Karns and Mingst have argued that the WTO present serious challenges to national sovereignty and would thus impede negotiations. However, what we see is that the World Trade Organization is still a very relevant factor to states. Also, bigger states, which exercise greater national sovereignty, are voluntarily relinquishing their rights to conform to WTO laws. This would mean that states recognize the value of the WTO and voluntary seek to strengthen it.
Indeed, there are several challenges that the WTO needs to overcome. Not only on the issue on sovereignty, the organization is faced with concerns over its disregarding on human health and on the effects to the environment. Some critics also argue that the WTO favors stronger economies and MNCs. However, recent practices of states strengthen, rather than weaken the credibility of the World Trade Organization. As long as states view that the organization serves their vital interests, the World Trade Organization will remain as a relevant force in the international system.