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At the center of the present multilateral trading system is the World Trade Organization (WTO), an international organization established in 1995 as the successor to the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT). The WTO was established as the result of the Uruguay Round of trade negotiations (1986-1994), which resulted in numerous agreements on trade in goods, services, investment and other non-tariff barriers to trade. One of the Uruguay Round agreements was the Agreement on Trade-related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS). Its main objectives include: (i) to administer trade agreements; (ii) to act as a forum for trade negotiations; (iii) to settle trade disputes; (iv) to review national trade policies; and (v) to assist developing countries in trade policy issues.
The WTO "has 144 Member Countries. In the past decade, the WTO has played an increasingly important role in international ICT decisionmaking as a result of the 1994 General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS), the 1997 Fourth Protocol to GATS on trade in basic telecommunication services, and the 1998 and 2001 Ministerial Declarations on Electronic Commerce. The principles embodied in the GATS treaty provide a new legal framework for governing the exchange of ICT services between countries. This framework is designed to facilitate foreign access to domestic ICT markets and is based on trade principles such as transparency and non-discrimination. The WTO and GATS treaties provide a legally binding mechanism for resolving disputes between countries, including disputes that might arise over ICT services, products or investments. No such mechanism existed previously. Currently, 84 countries, including many developing countries, have made commitments to open their domestic markets to foreign investment in and/or foreign supply of basic and value-added telecommunication services. In addition, a substantial majority of these countries have made commitments to apply a common set of principles for pro-competitive regulation of telecommunications in their jurisdictions."