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World Trade Organization

Shipping lives and breathes for the movement of world trade and vice versa, for without shipping, world trade as we know it today would be severely restricted. Consequently, any change or disruption to world trade has an implication for the maritime industry, the scale of which depends on the scope and reach of that alteration. This symbiotic relationship means that the workings of the World Trade Organization (WTO) are closely watched by the maritime industry. As the only international organisation dealing with the global rules of trade between nations, the WTO exists to maintain smooth, predictable and free trade flows, wherever possible.

Key to the WTO’s role is its agreements, which are negotiated and signed by a large majority of the world’s trading nations, and ratified in their parliaments. These agreements act as contracts binding governments to keep their trade policies within agreed limits to help producers of goods and services, exporters, and importers conduct their business.

An aspect of the WTO’s work particularly relevant to shipping is the organisation’s work on tariffs, the term for customs duties on merchandise imports. The WTO’s work on cutting tariffs stops countries using protectionist measures to support their own producers, a process that reduces global imports and exports. The WTO also produces well-respected Trade Policy Reviews on its members and maintains a comprehensive trade statistic database which is accessible to all.