Next stop: Geneva? Now that President Trump’s tariffs on steel and aluminum are official, America’s trading partners are threatening to take their grievances to the World Trade Organization.

You might wonder why a distant international body has a say in US decisions on imports and exports.

Here’s a primer on the WTO, and how it’s linked to the current trade fight.

What is the WTO?

The WTO is the center of the global trading system.

Made up of and governed by member nations, the WTO administers the network of international trade rules currently in place. It serves as a place to negotiate changes to existing agreements and, when issues come up, for member countries to mediate any disputes.

Who’s in the WTO?

About 160 countries belong to the WTO, including the United States, the UK, Germany, Brazil, South Korea, Japan, Canada and Mexico.

China joined the WTO in 2001. This was a major moment in China’s journey to becoming a global trade powerhouse, and accompanied the country’s decision to open its markets to more foreign goods and investment

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