Despite the potential tensions between the two approaches, it appears that multilateral and bilateral/regional trade agreements will remain characteristics of the global economy. However, both the WTO and agreements such as NAFTA are controversial among groups such as alter-globalists, who argue that such agreements serve the interests of multinationals and not workers, while free trade was a proven method of improving economic performance and increasing overall income. To counter this opposition, pressure has been exerted for labour and environmental standards to be included in these trade agreements. Labour standards contain provisions relating to the minimum wage and working conditions, while environmental standards would prevent trade if there were fears of environmental damage. Even in the absence of the constraints imposed by the most favoured nation and national treatment clauses, it is sometimes easier to obtain general multilateral agreements than separate bilateral agreements. In many cases, the potential loss resulting from a concession to a country is almost as great as that which would result from a similar concession to many countries. The benefits to the most efficient producers from global tariff reductions are significant enough to warrant substantial concessions. Since the implementation of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT, 1948) and its successor, the World Trade Organization (WTO, 1995), global tariffs have declined considerably and world trade has increased. The WTO contains provisions on reciprocity, the status of the most favoured nation and the domestic treatment of non-tariff restrictions. She has been involved in the architecture of the most comprehensive and important multilateral trade agreements of modern times. The North American Free Trade Agreement (1993) and the European Free Trade Association (1995) are examples of these trade agreements and their representative institutions.
As soon as the agreements go beyond the regional level, they need help. The World Trade Organization intervenes at this stage. This international body contributes to the negotiation and implementation of global trade agreements. In the modern world, free trade policy is often implemented by a formal and reciprocal agreement between the nations concerned. However, a free trade policy may simply be the absence of trade restrictions. For example, a nation could allow free trade with another nation, with exceptions that prohibit the importation of certain drugs not authorized by its regulators, animals that have not been vaccinated, or processed foods that do not meet their standards.