Multi-Lateral Summaries > World Trade Organization (WTO)

The World Trade Organization (WTO) is the only international organization dealing with the global rules of trade between nations. Its main objective is to ensure that trade flows as smoothly, predictably and freely as possible.

It does this by:

  • Administering trade agreements;
  • Acting as a forum for trade negotiations;
  • Settling trade disputes;
  • Reviewing national trade policies;
  • Ensuring coherence in policy-making.

The WTO organizes around 500 technical cooperation activities annually. It holds, on average, four trade policy courses each year in Geneva for government officials, and five field-based regional trade policy courses. Regional seminars are held regularly in all regions of the world, covering all WTO agreements, with a special emphasis on African countries. Training courses are also organized in Geneva for officials from countries in transition from central planning to market economies. The WTO set up reference centres in over 100 trade ministries and regional organizations in capitals of developing and least-developed countries, providing computers and Internet access to enable ministry officials to keep abreast of events in the WTO in Geneva through online access to the WTO’s immense database of official documents and other material.

TCB Related Programme

The Institute for Training and Technical Cooperation (ITTC) was established to coordinate WTO-related technical assistance and training in response to the main development-related challenges of the Doha Development Agenda.

ITTC’s main objectives are to assist beneficiary countries to:

  • enhance institutional and human capacity in the field of trade;
  • address trade policy issues;
  • integrate more fully into the multilateral trading system;
  • exercise the rights of WTO membership;
  • fully participate in multilateral trade negotiations.

In order to achieve these objectives, ITTC prepares its Biennial Technical Assistance and Training Plans (‘TA Plans’), which provide the WTO Secretariat’s frameworkfor the delivery of all activities.

The WTO compiles data on trade flows and on trade measures by its members. These are published in its annual publications, World Trade Report, and World Trade Statistics. In 2010, the WTO set up the Global Trade-related Technical Assistance Database (GTAD) to follow-up on the discontinued WTO/OECD joint database of trade-related capacity building projects, and to complement the OECD’s existing Creditor Reporting System (CRS) that provides data on trade-related aid, with a view to enhancing inter-agency coordination and coherence in the delivery of TRTA programmes,. The development of this centralized, but forward-looking information tool, aims at facilitating the coordination of efforts, and ensuring the coherence of approaches in programmes for activities delivered in the regions. Ownership of the GTAD includes all partner agencies, so as to ensure shared responsibility, continued cooperation, but also to increase the number of opportunities to advertise this information tool, so as to address the largest possible audience involved in trade-related capacity-building. The GTAD can be found at:

The Biennial Technical Assistance Plan 2008-2009 (WT/COMTD/W/160) (The Plan) was prepared by the ITTC, with substantive contributions from WTO divisions, and then presented to and adopted by the Members. The third Biennial Technical Assistance (TA) Plan prepared by the WTO Secretariat, covering all trade capacity building activities to be implemented in 20122013. It differs significantly from the previous plans in several ways as it introduces the concept of Results Based Management (RBM), which provides the basis for structural monitoring and evaluation of the Secretariat’s trade capacitybuilding programmes. The new TA Plan builds on lessons learned from the second biennial Plan, including on the use of new technologies, e.g. ELearning, followup on training events and a careful review of all products and strengthening their interrelation (WT/COMTD/W/180/Rev.1 3 February 2012)

The Plan is designed to enable the WTO Secretariat to pursue, in a coherent and cost effective fashion, key objectives mandated by members. These are: to enhance institutional and human capacity in beneficiary countries to address trade policy issues and concerns; ‘mainstream’ trade into national development and poverty reduction policies; facilitate fuller participation of beneficiaries in the Multilateral Trading System (MTS); and enable effective participation in the negotiations.

The Plan features a range of products, which can be used in the delivery of technical assistance and training, as well as some programmes. Whether used in Geneva or in the field, all the products are geared towards achieving the same general objective. The products can be applied individually or in combination. More-over, the Plan is designed in such a way that all eligible members and observers can systematically benefit. In light of their pressing trade development needs, priority will be given to LDCs. This priority will be articulated through specially designed events and, for beneficiaries of the IF, activities will be linked to their processes of mainstreaming trade into their national development plans.

The main challenge for the WTO is to assist LDCs to integrate into the MTS and to benefit from progressive trade liberalization in world trade. Another challenge is to assist LDCs to participate fully in the negotiating process of the DDA. In the Secretariat’s experience, one way of addressing these challenges is to identify and put in place appropriate cost-effective mechanisms that the Secretariat can deploy to encourage LDCs to take advantage of the full range of technical assistance and training programmes, including national seminars.

The products can be grouped broadly in four main categories:

  • General WTO-related technical assistance and training;
  • Specialized and advanced technical assistance and training;
  • Academic support for training and capacity building: an integrated approach;
  • Support technical assistance and training facilities;


The WTO is an active member of:

  • The Enhanced Integrated Framework (EIF) for trade-related technical assistance to LDCs
  • The Standards and Trade Development Facility (STDF)

In order to build and strengthen local capacity in beneficiary countries and enhance ownership, emphasis is increasingly put on partnerships, at varying levels of involvement, with other providers or sponsors of TRTA. Basically, in each geographical region, partnerships are built and used for training purposes and for conducting joint activities. The nature of the partnerships varies widely among partner institutions, depending on the institution itself, the contents of any signed undertakings, where they exist, and on the agreed objectives in the partnership arrangements.

Regional Partnerships

Partnership arrangements have been established at the regional level, and by way of illustration, these include the following:

In Africa, training and technical cooperation activities are undertaken in partnership with the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA), the African Development Bank (AfDB), the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD) Secretariat,Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA), South African Development Community (SADC), West African Economic and Monetary Union (WAEMU), etc. The Organisation internationale de la Francophonie is also a partner in this region. Its „Rexpaco“ programme dovetails well with WTO’s programme of activities with academics, and is aimed mainly at African French-speaking states;

For Arab and Middle East countries, close cooperation is undertaken with the Arab Monetary Fund (AMF), the Islamic Development Bank (IsDB) and the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (UNESCWA);

In Asia and the Pacific there is cooperation with the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (UNESCAP), the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat (PIFS), the International Development Law Organization (IDLO), and with the Asian Development Bank;

Institutional cooperation for training for countries in Central and Eastern Europe and Central Asia mostly takes place with the Joint Vienna Institute (JVI). The WTO will have slots of a total of some six weeks for conducting seminars and training courses; in addition, the Secretariat undertakes training through the so-called Applied Economic Policy Course. Cooperation also takes place with UNESCAP, as well as with the Canadian Centre for Trade Policy and Law (CTPL); in addition, the WTO is cooperating closely with the World Bank to design and implement a joint training event in Central Asia, mainly geared towards acceding countries;

In Latin America and the Caribbean, the bulk of regional activities are undertaken in close partnership with the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), in particular with its Institute for the Integration of Latin America and the Caribbean (INTAL). Every year a joint programme is defined and co-financed. Partnerships with other regional organizations and universities as the Organization of American States (OAS), the Inter-American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture (IICA), the Latin American Integration Association (ALADI), the Central American Economic Integration (SIECA), the Instituto Tecnologico Autónomo de México (ITAM) and FLACSO (Buenos Aires) have also contributed to greater outreach and effectiveness of our technical assistance activities. In the Caribbean, WTO has a well-established partnership with the CARICOM.

Other Partnerships

The Secretariat is always seeking to strengthen and expand cooperation with other international organizations, regional bodies and institutions. A total of some twenty MoUs currently exist with different international organizations, bodies and partner institutions. These MOUs are subject to regular review. It should be noted that the WTO also has a large number of partnership arrangements to undertake joint activities with other organizations without having established a formal MOU, for example with regional bodies, training centres, and academia.

The WTO and the WBI are pursuing cooperation on the basis of an agreement between the two organizations, signed on 28 April 1997. Joint activities such as co-lecturing, and the occasional participation in each other’s TRTA activities are undertaken through the IF, and the two organizations are gradually expanding this cooperation in a more structured manner.

The partnership with UNIDO is geared towards addressing supply-side constraints in conjunction with barriers to market access.

Many organizations, foundations and NGOs such as La Francophonie, the Commonwealth Secretariat, the Singapore based Temasek Foundation, the Friedrich Ebert Stiftung, the Canadian based FIPA, or the International Centre for Trade and Sustainable Development (ICTSD), are very active partners of the WTO in conducting outreach activities. Their input is valuable in terms of financial and logistical contributions, as well as their networking abilities, such as their capacity to engage diverse stakeholders in dialogue on WTO issues.

Through its MTS related initiatives, ITC disseminates WTO-related information to businesses and other stakeholders involved in trade negotiations through a network of focal points in 65 countries. It produces analytical publications on WTO-related issues from a business perspective, and organizes high-level interactive regional meetings that gather national teams of private-public representatives, contribute to analysis of negotiating positions from the commercial perspective, and strengthen the coalescing of public and private sector concerns.

TCB activities in this guide


  • Activities for parliamentarians and civil society


  • General WTO-related technical assistance and training
  • Specialized and advanced training and technical assistance
  • National technical assistance (TA) activities
  • Technical assistance within the Trade Policy Review Mechanism (TPRM) framework
  • Assisting beneficiaries in conducting needs assessments
  • Academic support for training and capacity building
  • Support training and technical assistance facilities
  • Advanced training programme for senior government officials
  • Intensive course on trade negotiations skills


  • Legal Advice
  • Establishing and strengthening reference centres


  • Data on trade flows


  • Trade Facilitation National Needs Assessment Project


  • Aid for Trade’s role in promoting South-South cooperation