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At the 1999 Ministerial Meeting in Seattle, the World Trade Organization (WTO) failed to launch a new round of multilateral trade negotiations, because member governments could not agree about how much WTO rules should constrain their policymaking prerogatives.
The purpose of the WTO is to promote trade that raises incomes and growth by regulating tariffs and other government policies that limit imports and artificially boost exports - i.e., to encourage trade based on comparative advantages, which results in a more efficient global allocation of resources. In this context, WTO members recognize the importance of ensuring that developing countries share in the benefits of this trade
Labor standards are just one arena where some governments see stronger international rules enhancing the benefits of globalization, while others view them as threatening their competitive advantages and sovereignty. Labor standards offers a window on the challenges national governments face in reaching consensus about how the WTO system should evolve.