What is the WTO and how is it different from the WCO?

The World Trade Organization (WTO) is the largest international economic organisation in the world. It is an intergovernmental organisation that deals with the rules of trade between nations.

The WTO puts its focus on  trade rules  which includes trade in goods, trade related aspects of intellectual property rights, trade in services and other trade related agreements The WTO provides a framework for negotiating trade agreements between the WTO Members.   It also provides a dispute settlement mechanism to enforce the agreements  and help Member countries to adhere to the agreements of the WTO. Members of  the WTO must resolve any trade conflicts under the dispute settlement mechanism in order to discourage/stop Members from taking a unilateral retaliatory measure against any other member.

Simply put, the WTO is a multilateral organization where countries negotiate trade agreements, settle trade disputes and operates a system of trade rules. By setting the rules and regulations of fair trade, the WTO delivers a controlled environment for negotiations and trade agreements between 2 or multiple parties.

The World Customs Organization (WCO), on the other hand, puts its focus on customs as opposed to trade in general. The WCO is also an intergovernmental organisation, made up of different members from all over the world. This organisation is focused on specific areas like the development of international conventions and tools on topics  such as Customs valuation, rules of origin, collection of customs revenues, and others.

Although the WTO and WCO cooperate on a number of areas such as market access, customs valuation, rules of origin and trade facilitation, these two independent organizations have different roles in international trade while complimenting each other’s work tremendously.

Therefore, the WCO’s function as an organisation is completely different in comparison to the WTO. Whilst the WTO provides the platform, the WCO provides the tools. The results are creating fair and compliant trade opportunities for businesses and countries involved in these organisations.

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