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The Culture of the WTO: Why it Needs to Change


  • Debra P. Steger


The WTO is an international organization with its own distinctive culture, which is derived from the practice and experience of the GATT. The WTO, however, is not the old GATT. The multilateral trading system was transformed into an international organization in 1995, and today, the WTO also administers a host of agreements that contain detailed rules regulating international economic activity. The membership of the WTO has grown to 150, the vast majority of which are developing countries. Most importantly, the trading system, which was once bi-polar, driven by the United States and the European Union, has changed dramatically to become multi-polar, with the large emerging economies, such as China, India and Brazil, becoming major economic powers in their own right. The WTO needs major surgery in order to respond effectively to the new political realities in the international economic system. The current impasse in the Doha Round is in large part due to the great transformation in geopolitical power relationships taking place in the world today. If the Round fails, it will not be the end of the WTO. On the contrary, it might provide a useful 'time out' for the multilateral system to find its new stride. A related problem is that the mandate of the WTO is no longer clear. This article suggests that WTO Members work together to define the new purpose and mandate of the WTO to make it relevant to governments, companies and people in the 21st century. Institutional reform of the WTO is needed to provide it with the architecture and decision making machinery that will allow it to become a vibrant, responsive and accountable organization. , Oxford University Press.

Suggested Citation

  • Debra P. Steger, 2007. "The Culture of the WTO: Why it Needs to Change," Journal of International Economic Law, Oxford University Press, vol. 10(3), pages 483-495, September.
  • Handle: RePEc:oup:jieclw:v:10:y:2007:i:3:p:483-495

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    Cited by:

    1. Adlung, Rudolf, 2009. "Services liberalization from a WTO/GATS perspective: In search of volunteers," WTO Staff Working Papers ERSD-2009-05, World Trade Organization (WTO), Economic Research and Statistics Division.

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