Global Governance: The World Trade Organization's Contribution

21 Pages Posted: 23 Sep 2009 Last revised: 12 Aug 2013

See all articles by Andrew D. Mitchell

Andrew D. Mitchell

University of Melbourne - Law School

Elizabeth Sheargold

University of Wollongong

Date Written: January 4, 2010


Democracy and administrative law concern ideas of governance, legitimacy, and accountability. With the growth of bureaucracy and regulation, many democratic theorists would argue that administrative law mechanisms are essential to achieving democratic objectives. This article considers the World Trade Organization’s (WTO) contribution to governance both in terms of global administrative law and democracy. In relation to administrative law, it first explores the extent to which the WTO’s own dispute settlement process contributes to this area. Second, it considers the operation of administrative law principles embedded within the WTO Agreements on Members. For example, the WTO Agreements require that certain laws be administered “in a uniform, impartial and reasonable manner.” This obligation was recently considered by the Appellate Body, but uncertainty remains about the scope this provision has to permit WTO panels to review domestic administrative practices. In relation to the WTO’s contribution to democracy, this article first considers the challenges and limitations of the current system of decision making within the WTO and compares it to democratic theory. Second, it examines how democracies comply with the findings of WTO dispute settlement tribunals and how compliance could be improved. It concludes by speculating on the implications of this discussion for public international law more broadly.

Keywords: WTO, Global Administrative Law, in a uniform, impartial and reasonable manner

JEL Classification: K00, K33, K23

Suggested Citation

Mitchell, Andrew D. and Sheargold, Elizabeth, Global Governance: The World Trade Organization's Contribution (January 4, 2010). Alta. Law Review, Vol. 46, pp. 1061-1080, 2008-2009; U of Melbourne Legal Studies Research Paper No. 426; Georgetown Law and Economics Research Paper No. 1477544. Available at SSRN: or

Andrew D. Mitchell (Contact Author)

University of Melbourne - Law School ( email )

University Square
185 Pelham Street, Carlton
Victoria, Victoria 3010
+61383441098 (Phone)
+61393472392 (Fax)


Elizabeth Sheargold

University of Wollongong ( email )

Northfields Avenue
Wollongong, New South Wales 2522

Register to save articles to
your library


Paper statistics

Abstract Views
PlumX Metrics