Categories: Tax Advice

About the WTO

Know the World Trade Organisation’s tariffs and rules before you export.

The World Trade Organisation (WTO), based in Geneva, Switzerland, currently has 159 members. South Africa has been a member since January 1995. The WTO facilitates trade and settles disputes. If, for instance, a country wants to trade with another, but faces trade barriers, the WTO is where these issues are thrashed out by the potential trading partners.
In some cases, the WTO supports these barriers, as when a consumer market requires protection.

READ:US chicken farmers sue poultry companies for alleged corruption

The WTO has a database of agreements between member countries as global signatories and between the trading countries individually. Some of the compromises reached in concluding the agreements that make up the WTO database are hard won and, naturally, disputes may arise in the interpretation of these agreements. each agreement thus contains a special dispute settlement process.

Ensuring stability of policies
As mentioned, the objective of the WTO is to facilitate trade. This is achieved through giving members confidence that there will be no sudden changes in policy of any trading partner and ensuring that individuals, companies and governments know what the trade rules are around the world. The WTO is driven by its member states, but cannot operate without a secretariat that co-ordinates its activities.

The WTO website ( contains details of the customs tariffs and the codes used to describe various goods and services when making use of legally required documentation in the export or import of various goods and services.The trade policies adopted by South Africa and regional and other trade agreements, as well as the services that are available to member states, are all documented on the WTO website.

For example, the provision of services by individuals or companies of one member state to those of another member state is facilitated and the rules for such provisions are broadly outlined within the WTO’s General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS).

This agreement provides a guideline for non-discrimination between professionals of contracting states for the selling of services by individuals, such as doctors and lawyers, where such individuals (or companies) are engaged in professional visits, as opposed to a permanent provision of services within the other country. GATS also provides for ease of payment between service providers and consumers in different states, while ensuring that industry standards in the recipient country are maintained without any disguised protectionism.

Do your homework
Any farmer who already has an export destination, or is seeking a new one, where goods or services are to be sold, should take the trouble to ascertain the contents of any agreement in place between the export destination and the jurisdiction of the exporter, so that the applicable tariffs and rules are known in advance of operations commencing.

Peter O’Halloran is an advocate in private practice.

Recent Posts

Stock thieves slaughter 30 sheep on Mpumalanga farm

The South African Police Service (SAPS) has appealed to the public for any information that could lead to the arrest of…

22 hours ago

Africa’s swelling population problem

Overpopulation and managing population growth are some of the most difficult subjects to write about.

1 day ago

Indigenous livestock perfect for small-scale farmers

Ross Rayner and his father, Roger, farm 40 Nguni cows and 35 Bosvelder-type ewes on 250ha in the Mankazana Valley…

2 days ago

Researchers urged to get out into the field

More than 250 delegates are attending the annual Combined Congress of soil, crop production, weed and horticultural sciences, underway at…

2 days ago

Praise for teamwork in containing foot-and-mouth outbreak

The rapid response by both government and the private sector to the recent foot-and-mouth disease (FMD) outbreak in the Vhembe…

2 days ago

Homeland consolidation: a forerunner of land reform?

Zimbini Coka, a junior lecturer at the University of the Free State’s Department of Agricultural Economics, visited areas that became…

3 days ago

This website uses cookies.