The World Trade Organization (WTO) is the only international entity to oversee trade between nations. The WTO helps negotiate and draft trade agreements that are recognized by the majority of trading nations.
According to the Council on Foreign Relations, the WTO and its 159 member nations represent about 97 percent of the world's trade of goods and services. In an effort to stimulate the global economy, the WTO works to reduce tariffs. Supporters of the WTO say nations that rely heavily on free trade for their economic health benefit greatly from the organization's existence. Opponents say that the WTO only benefits wealthy nations and that smaller, poorer countries must compete in an unfair trade environment, according to the Council on Foreign Relations.
The WTO describes itself as a forum for governments to settle trade-related disputes and to negotiate agreements. Although the organization generally works to remove barriers to trade between nations, it sometimes supports such barriers. For example, it is in favor of obstacles to trade when they prevent the spread of disease or otherwise protect international consumers.
According to the WTO, it serves as a vehicle for helping to negotiate trade among conflicting interests through the development of detailed agreements.