Multilateral trade relations

World Trade Organization (WTO)

The WTO was established on 1 January 1995 with the entry into force of the Marrakesh Agreement, and is the successor of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT). Up until then GATT 1994 was a multilateral trade agreement that regulated a number of important rules in the global trade. The multilateral trade negotiations were adopted as a basic working method, in the framework of which the new levels of trade liberalization were agreed. Up to 1994 eight rounds of multilateral trade negotiations were completed. In 2001 started the on-going ninth round, known as the Doha Round.

The WTO provides the common institutional framework for the conduct of trade relations among its Members in matters related to the Marrakesh Agreement and the associated legal instruments annexed to it. WTO has 155 Members and 29 Observers (as of May 2012).

The General Council and the Ministerial Conference are the main bodies of the WTO. The Ministerial Conference is the highest authority where all decisions are adopted by consensus. The regular work of the WTO is conducted in the framework of the General Council and its subordinated working bodies (specialized in various areas committees, working groups etc.).

During the global economic crisis and in the following years the WTO continued strengthening its cooperation with other international organizations, such as the IMF, the World Bank and UNCTAD, in order to overcome the consequences of the crisis and prevent the protectionism worldwide. To achieve these goals a mechanism for regular monitoring of trade and trade related measures was approved, which is focused on the protectionist policies.

For more information about the WTO and GATT click here.

Bulgaria in the WTO

Bulgaria is a member of the WTO since 1 December 1996. At its accession the country undertook significant commitments in accordance with the Marrakesh Agreement and all relevant legal instruments, for further liberalization of trade in services and goods. The trade policy review in 2003 acknowledged the active participation of Bulgaria in the multilateral trading system. The report, released on 17 October 2003 by the WTO Secretariat, notes the country’s broad trade policy reforms, which cover its customs, tariff and import licensing regime, as well as the trade remedy regulations, standards, government procurement, trade-related intellectual property, and services regimes.

The membership commitments of Bulgaria changed towards deeper liberalization in 2007, when the country joined the European Union. The main activity of Bulgaria, related to its WTO membership since 2007, is focused on the active participation of the country in the preparatory work regarding the common EU positions on various issues, including the Doha Round.

Bulgaria participated in the Eighth Session of the WTO Ministerial Conference, held from 15 to 17 December 2011 in Geneva, where the accession conditions of new members were approved, and a number of decisions were adopted in the area of e-commerce, intellectual property rights and the economic integration of the least developed countries.

For more information about the Bulgarian membership in the WTO click here.

EU in the WTO

According to Article 207 of the Treaty on Functioning of the European Union (the Lisbon Treaty), the Common Commercial Policy is of exclusive EU competence and is conducted by the European Commission after consultation with the Member States in the Council of the European Union and with the European Parliament. The 27 Member States of the EU are also WTO members in their own right though the European Commission speaks for all in one voice in most of the working bodies. The EU is one of the leading participants in the multilateral negotiations and seeks to achieve acceptable and balanced results for the benefit of more meaningful trade liberalization and sustainable development.

For more information about the EU in the WTO click here.

Other international economic organizations

In the context of enhanced economic cooperation, Bulgaria participates in many international economic organizations with different statute in each. With higher importance for the Bulgarian foreign economic policy are: UNCTAD, OECD, ECOSOC and UNIDO.

Useful Links:

Official WTO Web Page


Dictionary of terminology – WTO

Doha Development Agenda

WTO Membership

WTO Database

Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Bulgaria