Benefits of the WTO
Belize is a small open economy with a traditional agricultural export base and an expanding services sector. Its geographic location in Central America and historic linkages to the Caribbean provides the opportunity to further develop and sustain regional networks of trade and economic cooperation. As a member of the WTO, Belize can benefit from the WTO’s trade rules and dispute settlement mechanism should its trading partners breach these rules. Belize would find it difficult to persuade large countries to change a trading practice that negatively affect trade had it not been a member of the WTO.
Since the WTO operates by consensus, the opinion of every member carries the same weight and therefore, all members must agree before a decision is made. This means that progress can be slow, but once an agreement is reached, all members are obliged to honor it. This system works to Belize’s advantage in four significant ways:
- Belize can trade under WTO Agreements
- Belize has an avenue to settle trade disputes
- Belize is able to participate in World Trade negotiations
- Belize is able to participate in Trade Policy Reviews
At the heart of the WTO are the multilateral trade agreements. These are the legal ground rules for international trade covering goods, services, and intellectual property that all WTO members must follow:
Rules for Trade in Goods
The rules on trade in goods are found in the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT). The GATT aims to ensure a substantial reduction of tariffs and other trade barriers and the elimination of preferences, on a reciprocal and mutually advantageous basis”. The GATT is complemented by a large number of subsidiary agreements and annexes, dealing with various issues related to trade in goods.
- Agreement on Agriculture
- Agreement on the Application of Sanitary and Phytosanitary Measures (EPE)
- Agreement on Technical Barriers to Trade (TBT)
- Agreements on Subsidies and Countervailing Measures
- Agreement on Import Licensing
See link to the GATT on the WTO’s Website
Rules for Trade in Services
The General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS) is a set of rules covering trade in services such as education, tourism, financial services, accountancy, legal services, and management consulting. Its objective is to ensure that such trade takes place under clear and predictable rules. Belize along with other WTO members have made some legally binding commitments to treat foreign service providers in the same way national services providers would be treated.
See link to the GATS on the WTO’s Website
Trade Related Aspect of Intellectual Property Rights
The Trade Related Aspect of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) agreement sets out the minimum levels of protection for different forms of intellectual property, such as copyright (music, art, and design), patents, inventions, and trademarks. Belize along with other WTO Members are able to decide how to apply these minimum standards in their own domestic laws.
See link to TRIPS on the WTO’s website