"The World Trade Organization (WTO) was established on January 1, 1995, under an agreement reached during the Uruguay Round of multilateral trade negotiations. The Uruguay Round was the last of a series of periodic trade negotiations held under the auspices of the WTO's predecessor, the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT). [...] Trade agreements administered by the WTO cover a broad range of goods and services trade and apply to virtually all government practices that directly relate to trade, for example tariffs, subsidies, government procurement, and trade-related intellectual property rights. The WTO agreements are based on the principle of nondiscriminatory treatment among countries. Some exceptions however, such as preferential treatment for developing countries, are allowed. Other basic principles of the WTO are open information on rules and regulations, negotiated limits on trade barriers, and settlement of disputes under specific procedures. Among the questions asked during debate on U.S. trade policy and the WTO are: To what extent are U.S. trade goals achieved through the WTO's multilateral forum, compared to other means such as bilateral or regional trade agreements or unilateral actions? Can the United States maintain its sovereignty as a member of the WTO? Are U.S. interests served through the WTO dispute process? Should the United States seek broader WTO rules to include nontraditional issues such as labor and the environment? What is the role of Congress in U.S. participation in the WTO?"
CRS Report for Congress, 98-928
U.S. Dept. of State, Foreign Press Centers: http://fpc.state.gov/