On the face of it, membership in the WTO means, primarily and for the most part, a reduction in tariffs, increase in foreign investment, and the importing and exporting of products and services on a level never before seen in the country. A deeper analysis shows that this has led and will continue to lead to fundamental changes in the basic business and financial structures within the kingdom, which has had an almost immediate effect on the cultural and social policies and attitudes within the Saudi Arabia. In order to attain a better understanding of these policies and what Saudi Arabia’s membership in the WTO means for global enterprise and free trade we will need to consider the following three areas of analysis: 1) The economic, political and social conditions which existed just prior to Saudis accession into the WTO and the motivations that prompted them to initiate the process, 2) The obligations and stipulations of membership in the WTO for Saudi Arabia and what changes this has led to both internally to Saudi Arabia and externally in the rest of the world, and 3) The ramifications of this accession in the long-term for global enterprise and free trade in other parts of the world. …
II. WTO Background
It is important initially to highlight some of the features of the WTO in general that have precipitated many of the important changes in Saudi Arabia and how the WTO sees itself as more than a simple trade agreement and why this perspective is important for global enterprise. The successor organization to General Agreement on Trade and Tariffs (GATT), in 1982 the so-called Uruguay Round of negotiations set the stage for the promulgation of the WTO. Designed to set best practices for international trade, offering a comprehensive and robust forum for trade-related negotiations as well as a dispute resolving mechanism, the WTO has expanded its role via the Doha agenda (WTO 2007) and not only sees itself as regulating body for trade but as a body that seeks to grow and develop multilateral enterprise and global trade of its member nations. This includes but is not limited to offering technical assistance to the least-developed countries within the WTO, promoting agricultural and private sector development in such countries as well as creating favorable circumstances to encourage specific types of trade with certain developing states. This expanded mission has had many positive results for both developed and developing nations as this allows for more fruitful engagement with countries along multiple lines of trade such as in Saudi Arabia, for example, where these policies have promoted growth and commerce in non-oil related sectors. This commitment is in-line with WTO’s general mission as a body created to liberalize global enterprise and this liberalization has been the focal point for much of the debate in kingdom of Saudi Arabia.
III. Prior to the WTO