International Trade, Investment, and Finance Institutions

Information on the major international organizations tied to the global economy

The World Trade Organization

The WTO came into being on 1 January 1995, as an international institution able to make binding trade rules and as a set of agreements between member States, building on the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT).  In addition to new rules on agriculture and textiles, the WTO also incorporated the General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS) and the Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS).  In addition, the WTO also created a Dispute Settlement Understanding, which allowed for enforceable decisions by WTO panels and it's Appellate Body.  

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The World Bank

The World Bank is an international financial institution that provides leveraged loans to poorer countries for capital programs, tied to neoliberal market restructurings. The World Bank has a stated goal of reducing poverty.  The World Bank is one of two major institutions created as a result of the Bretton Woods Conference in 1944, and has changed several times over its history.  Initially the bank carefully screened applicants and undertook a low level of funding.  Beginning in the late 1960s, the number of borrower nations and the size of loans increased as the bank expanded beyond infrastructure projects into funding social service and other programs.  This resulted in a large increase in state debt level in the global South.  Today it is part of the World Bank Group which also includes the International Finance Corporation and the International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes.

The World Bank Group is a consortium of various international financial institutions, including the World Bank.  The International Finance Corporation (IFC) is a member of the World Bank Group and is headquartered in Washington, DC. Established in 1956, IFC is the largest multilateral source of loan and equity financing for private sector projects in the developing world. It promotes private sector development primarily by financing private sector projects and companies located in the developing world, helping private companies in the developing world mobilize financing in international financial markets, and providing advice and technical assistance to businesses and governments.  Within the IFC, the Compliance Advisor Ombudsman hears claims of adverse social or environmental impact, including any human rights abuse, resulting from a project the IFC finances or is otherwise associated with.

Lastly, the International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID), is an institution in the World Bank Group and was established in 1966 pursuant to the Convention on the Settlement of Investment Disputes between States and Nationals of Other States (the ICSID Convention or Washington Convention). As of May 2005, 155 countries had signed the ICSID Convention. ICSID has an Administrative Council, chaired by the World Bank's President, and a Secretariat. It provides facilities for the conciliation and arbitration of investment disputes between member countries and individual investors.

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