Today, the WTO comprises over 150 countries and territories. Consequently, WTO principles are amongst the most far reaching and important international rules applicable to government regulation of extraction industries and related goods.
The General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT), at Article I, prohibits WTO Members from treating goods differently, based on the country of exportation or importation. This principle can also apply to contracts concluded or other measures taken by State trading enterprises. For instance, a State that, via a State owned company, supplies oil or gas to users in a particular country at a lower price than charged to other countries could violate Article I GATT.
Furthermore, at Article V, GATT guarantees freedom of transit across WTO Members via the "most convenient" routes and generally requires non-discriminatory treatment. It also prohibits WTO Members from imposing taxes on goods in transit, including oil and gas transported through pipelines (although it does allow charges commensurate with services rendered).
The Agreement on Subsidies and Countervailing Measures ("SCM Agreement"), as its name suggests, regulates the grant of subsidies by WTO Members. Among other things, it prohibits the grant of export subsidies and seeks to limit other types of subsidies which negatively impact international trade. Article 3, for instance, prohibits WTO Members from providing financial incentives to mining companies in exchange for an express or implied promise to export.
The General Agreement on Trade in Services ("GATS") applies to measures affecting trade in services, including services provided by extraction industry companies. Like the GATT, it contains a general non-discrimination obligation which normally prohibits WTO Members from treating services or service suppliers from one WTO Member differently to those from other WTO Members. If a WTO Member has made certain "commitments", for instance concerning "services incidental to energy distribution", government action is further restrained with respect to the relevant services category.
WTO rules also apply to measures that are sometimes imposed in relation to investment projects: the Agreement on Trade Related Investment Measures prohibits local content requirements and the accession agreements of certain WTO Members contain restrictions on obligatory transfer of technology.
Unsurprisingly, WTO law also contains a number of exemption clauses, capable of justifying regulatory intervention. Article XX GATT, for instance, permits governments to impose export restrictions or discriminate if the relevant measure is objectively justified by environmental or natural resource concerns. Exceptionally, WTO-inconsistent action may also be approved by special WTO procedures. Thus, in 2003, the WTO membership approved a so-called "waiver" of WTO obligations with respect to discriminatory quantitative restrictions imposed on conflict diamonds.