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    Business Guide to the World Trading System


    New Sequel to Best-seller from ITC and the Commonwealth Secretariat
    © International Trade Centre, International Trade Forum - Issue 1/2001 

    A new publication, Business Guide to the World Trading System, was launched by ITC and the Commonwealth Secretariat at a meeting hosted by the British Ministry of Trade in London, United Kingdom in October. Targeted primarily to the business world, the Guide explains business implications of the World Trade Organization's legal framework for international trade. The book is a successor to a previous publication, Business Guide to the Uruguay Round, incorporating the latest developments in the evolving international trade framework.

    The Guide has three features which make it unique. First, it describes the WTO legal framework from a business perspective, using simple language and highlighting business implications. Second, it

    reviews the six cutting-edge trade topics around which WTO has organized its work programme for study and analysis: trade and environment; trade and investment; trade and competition policy; transparency in government procurement; trade facilitation; and electronic commerce. Third, it is the only description of the WTO framework from a business angle which has been reviewed and approved by the WTO Secretariat.

    Building on success 

    Shortly after WTO was established in January 1995 and the Uruguay Round Agreements came into effect, ITC and the Commonwealth Secretariat jointly published a Business Guide to the Uruguay Round. The Guide explained the legal framework for international trade resulting from these Agreements in simple language, emphasizing the business implications of specific provisions and rules.

    The initial Guide was very well received by the business community, trade negotiators and foreign trade officials alike. More than 17,000 copies in English, French and Spanish were distributed and the Guide has since been translated by partner organizations into Arabic, Chinese, Greek, Romanian, Russian and other languages. More than 150 seminars and information events on the provisions of the Multilateral Trading System for the business community in developing countries and transition economies have been organized using the Guide as a comprehensive reference tool.

    The new publication draws on feedback to the earlier publication from the business community, trade negotiators and foreign trade officials. While maintaining the overall approach, it reflects major developments since 1995 and contains a new section touching upon emerging trade topics.

    A user-friendly guide 

    The Business Guide to the World Trading System assumes no prior knowledge on the part of the readers of the WTO legal system or of its rules. The rules are explained in a manner that is easy to understand, yet care has been taken to ensure that the Guide correctly reflects the legal situation, by collaborating closely with the WTO Secretariat in its production and review.

    Understanding the rules is not easy - they are both voluminous and complex. The texts of the legal instruments run over 400 pages. These are supplemented by national "schedules" which list in more than 22,000 pages the specific liberalization commitments assumed by WTO member countries. It is usually difficult for business persons not familiar with the WTO to understand the system's legal language. Yet ability of industries and business enterprises to benefit fully from this rule-based system in today's fast globalizing economy depends on their knowledge and understanding of the detailed rules. The Business Guide to the World Trading System helps them navigate through this rule-based system more effectively.

    The Guide is addressed primarily to:

    • Business enterprises, particularly small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs)

    • Industries and associations of industry and trade

    • Teaching, training and research institutions directly or indirectly associated with foreign trade.

    This Guide is one of the outputs of technical cooperation activities of the Commonwealth Secretariat and ITC and marks another step in the collaborative venture between the two organizations.

    Internet references 

    See the WTO web site (http://www.wto.org), which contains information on WTO rules and regulations, addresses of enquiry and information points, specific liberalization commitments undertaken by countries and WTO's ongoing work.

    To complement this information, see the World Tr@de Net portion of ITC's web site (http://www.intracen.org), as well as reference and training materials on selected business issues of the trading system.