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The Future of the WTO: The Case for Institutional Reform


  • Debra P. Steger


Institutional reform of the World Trade Organization (WTO) is needed to equip it for the challenges of the future. However, the major problem with rule making and decision making in the WTO is not the consensus rule or the decision-making rules in the Marrakesh Agreement Establishing the WTO. It is not the final phase of adoption of a rule-making proposal that causes the delays and blockage in the WTO system, but rather the lack of formal mechanisms at the initial and intermediate stages of the rule-making process and the absence of a management or executive body, analogous to the executive boards of the International Monetary Fund and World Bank, that leads to the lack of direction and drift in the Organization. This article maintains that it is necessary to establish a formal, limited-membership management committee or executive board within the WTO. The roles of the Director-General and the Secretariat of the WTO should also be enhanced. The WTO has been criticized for its lack of transparency and accountability vis-à-vis NGOs and civil society. Developing a parliamentary dimension to the WTO would go a long way to remedying these deficiencies. Finally, the idea of developing more formal mechanisms for receiving input from non-state stakeholders, with an emphasis on business and consumer groups, should be explored. Oxford University Press 2009, all rights reserved, Oxford University Press.

Suggested Citation

  • Debra P. Steger, 2009. "The Future of the WTO: The Case for Institutional Reform," Journal of International Economic Law, Oxford University Press, vol. 12(4), pages 803-833, December.
  • Handle: RePEc:oup:jieclw:v:12:y:2009:i:4:p:803-833

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Daniel Esty, 1994. "Greening the GATT: Trade, Environment, and the Future," Peterson Institute Press: All Books, Peterson Institute for International Economics, number 40.
    2. Arvind Subramanian, 1992. "Trade Measures for Environment: A Nearly Empty Box?," The World Economy, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 15(1), pages 135-152, January.
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