Canada and the World Trade Organization (WTO)

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The World Trade Organization helps create rules for trade between its 164 members. Canada is a strong proponent of the multilateral trading system, with the WTO at its core.

Overview

The World Trade Organization provides a common framework for conducting trade relations among its 164 Members.

Trade and development

Canada plays an important role in participating and contributing to various WTO-led initiatives to support developing and least-developed countries.

Dispute settlement

Canada participates in many WTO disputes as a complainant, a respondent or a third party.

Multilateral negotiations

Trade negotiations are a key function of the WTO.

Joint Statement Initiatives

Learn about Canada’s participation in the WTO Joint Statement Initiatives.

Ministerial conferences

The Ministerial Conferences are the highest decision-making body of the WTO.

Committees and councils

WTO committees and councils, working groups and working parties deal with agreements covering trade-related issues.

Statements

Statements provided by the Permanent Representative to the WTO on behalf of Canada.

Trade policy reviews

Surveillance of national trade policies is a fundamental activity conducted by the WTO.

Reform and the Ottawa Group

Canada is committed to its leadership role in finding solutions to the 21st-century challenges to the multilateral trading system.

Contact us

If you have questions or comments, we would like to hear from you.

News

Official Government of Canada news releases, statements and media advisories related to the World Trade Organization.

Overview

The World Trade Organization (WTO), established in 1995, provides a common institutional framework for conducting trade relations among its 164 Members, including:

  • administering WTO trade agreements and providing a forum for negotiations of new rules among its Members
  • administering the rules and procedures concerning the conduct of handling trade disputes between its Members
  • facilitating the monitoring of Members’ trade policies to help ensure transparency and compliance with WTO trade agreements
  • providing technical assistance and training to help developing country Members take full advantage of the multilateral trading system

Canada has been a member of the WTO since the organization’s establishment and is a strong proponent of the multilateral trading system. Creating opportunities for Canadian workers and businesses through WTO participation on a global scale is a central part of our trade policy.

Canada endorses the goal of universal membership in the WTO and participates in all negotiations of countries seeking to join the organization.

For more information about Canada’s engagement at the WTO, refer to the Canada and the WTO site.

Trade and development

Through participation in and contributions to various WTO-led initiatives, Canada plays an important role in supporting developing countries and least-developed countries (LDCs) in areas such as:

  • sustainable economic growth
  • poverty reduction
  • food security
  • environmental protection

Canada has been contributing to WTO-led initiatives since Aid for Trade launched in 2005, through instruments such as:

Canada also supports the advancement of Trade and Development themes within WTO negotiations to facilitate a multilateral trading system that is accessible to all Members.

Dispute settlement

Canada is an active participant in many WTO disputes, including as a complainant, a respondent or a third party. Participation in WTO dispute settlements help ensure that other WTO Members comply with their obligations and that the interests of Canadian stakeholders are protected.

The WTO maintains a full list of all disputes between WTO Members (including Canada) and a repository of documents related to each case. The WTO Dispute settlement page provides specific information about how disputes are settled.

Canada and 18 other WTO Members established the Multi-Party Interim Appeal-Arbitration Arrangement (MPIA) to address the need to fill vacancies on the WTO’s Appellate Body. The MPIA became operational in May 2020 and there are now over two dozen participants, including frequent users of the WTO dispute settlement system. The purpose of the MPIA is to safeguard the binding and two-stage dispute settlement between MPIA-participating Members on an interim basis, while work continues amongst all WTO Members to resolve the Appellate Body impasse. The MPIA is open to all WTO Members. A pool of 10 arbitrators was selected by consensus by the MPIA participating Members. Three arbitrators will be selected from that pool to hear each appeal-arbitration filed under the MPIA.

In December 2020, a group of WTO Members including Canada made a joint statement on practices concerning the use of flexible arrangements in dispute settlement proceedings during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Multilateral negotiations

Trade negotiations are a key function of the WTO. WTO Members have a standing mandate for multilateral negotiations under the Doha Development Agenda and pursue plurilateral negotiations whereby subsets of the full WTO membership are interested in specific areas of liberalization. Current multilateral negotiations include:

Joint Statement Initiatives

Joint Statement Initiatives (JSI) are plurilateral initiatives to advance the negotiating agenda of the WTO. At the 11th WTO Ministerial Conference in December 2017, Canada and a broad range of WTO Members agreed to begin discussions towards future WTO negotiations in the areas of:

These initiatives present a concrete opportunity to strengthen WTO rules and revitalize the negotiating function of the WTO to benefit Canadian businesses. The Joint Statement Initiatives are open to any WTO Member wishing to participate. They have the potential to serve as building blocks for new 21st century rules agreed to by the full WTO membership.

Ministerial conferences

The WTO Ministerial Conferences are the highest decision-making body of the WTO. It usually meets at least once every two years and is attended by the trade ministers of WTO Members. The Ministerial Conference can make decisions on any matters under any multilateral trade agreement.

Committees and councils

The WTO has a number of specialized committees and councils, working groups and working parties dealing with agreements covering a wide range of trade-related issues.

Statements

Canada’s Permanent Representative to the WTO provides statements on Canada’s behalf regarding Canada’s position on issues discussed in various committees and councils, most notably at General Council and Trade Negotiations Committee meetings.

Trade policy reviews

Surveillance of national trade policies is a fundamental activity conducted by the WTO. It reviews the trade policies of its members at regular intervals. Canada participates in each review. The objectives of a trade policy review (TPR) include facilitating the smooth functioning of the multilateral trading system by enhancing the transparency of members’ trade policies. The frequency of each country’s review varies according to its share of world trade. Canada’s 11th review took place in June 2019 in Geneva. Canada’s next TPR should occur in 2024 as, going forward, Canada will be reviewed by the WTO on a five-year cycle.

Reform and the Ottawa Group

The WTO is at a crossroads and faces many challenges that are stressing the multilateral trading system. In response, Canada has brought together a small group of WTO members committed to supporting and strengthening the multilateral trading system called the Ottawa Group on WTO reform. This group consists of 14 members:

  • Australia
  • Brazil
  • Canada
  • Chile
  • European Union
  • Japan
  • Kenya
  • Korea
  • Mexico
  • New Zealand
  • Norway
  • Singapore
  • Switzerland
  • United Kingdom

Canada convenes meetings of the Ottawa Group to engage in meaningful exchanges to enhance and improve the WTO over the short, medium and long term.

The group works openly and engages additional WTO members when appropriate. The work of the Ottawa Group is meant to contribute to the development of ideas and suggestions to the broader WTO membership for consideration and discussion.

For more information, refer to the Ottawa Group and WTO reform page.

Contact us

If you have questions or comments about this initiative, please contact us:

Trade Policy and Negotiations Division (TCW)
Global Affairs Canada
Lester B. Pearson Building
125 Sussex Drive
Ottawa, Ontario  K1A 0G2

Fax: 613-944-0757
Email: consultations@international.gc.ca

News

List of official Government of Canada press releases, ministerial statements and media advisories pertaining to the World Trade Organization.

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