From the Overview: "The World Trade Organization (WTO) was established on January 1, 1995, following the ratification of the Uruguay Round Agreements, and today includes 164 members. It succeeded the 1947 General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT), created as part of the post-WWII [World War II] effort to build a stable, open international trading system. The WTO has three basic functions: (1) administering existing agreements; (2) serving as a negotiating forum for new trade liberalization and rules; and (3) providing a mechanism to settle disputes. The multiple WTO agreements cover trade in goods, services, and agriculture; remove tariff and nontariff barriers; and establish rules on government practices that directly relate to trade--for example, trade remedies, technical barriers to trade (TBT), intellectual property rights (IPR), and government procurement. The agreements are based on the principles of nondiscrimination among countries--most-favored nation (MFN) treatment, national treatment, fair competition, and transparency of trade rules and regulations. Some exceptions, such as preferential treatment for developing countries and regional and bilateral trade agreements outside the WTO, are allowed. The GATT/WTO system over time has led to a significant reduction of trade barriers, supported trade expansion and economic growth, and helped manage trade frictions. At the same time, the WTO faces serious challenges."
CRS In Focus, IF10002
Congressional Research Service: https://crsreports.congress.gov/