Developing Country Coalitions at the WTO: In Search of Legal Support

Posted: 22 Jun 2010 Last revised: 7 May 2013

See all articles by Sonia E. Rolland

Sonia E. Rolland

Northeastern University - School of Law

Date Written: 2007


With a multipolar international system and a membership ranging from micro-states to superpowers, the WTO is faced with many challenges in ensuring adequate representation and participation of its members. Coalitions have been one tool that small and poor countries have used to increase their power and participation. Such coalitions are beginning to change the organization’s dynamics. This Article assesses the impact of the WTO’s legal structure on coalition building and offers some suggestions for reform. If smaller or poorer developing countries are to participate more fully in multilateral trade negotiations and if this can better be done through alliances, the organization will have to adapt its law and practice to become more coalition-friendly or risk further marginalizing a large part of its membership. The first part of the Article presents an empirical analysis of developing country coalitions in the GATT and the WTO and proposes a typology of developing country coalitions. The second part assesses the WTO institutional structure for a coalition objective, analyzing the organization’s impact on each type of coalition identified in the first part. The second part also suggests possible structural adjustments to improve developing countries’ participation through coalitions. The third part looks beyond the organization’s institutional arrangements at how some trade instruments (preferences and bilateral or regional trade agreements) are used within the WTO context to counter coalition strategies.

Keywords: WTO, developing countries, negotiations, coalitions, groupings, institutions, participation, representation, LDC, Least Developed Countries

Suggested Citation

Rolland, Sonia Elise, Developing Country Coalitions at the WTO: In Search of Legal Support (2007). Harvard International Law Journal, Vol. 48, No. 2, p. 483, 2007; Northeastern University School of Law Research Paper . Available at SSRN:

Sonia Elise Rolland (Contact Author)

Northeastern University - School of Law ( email )

400 Huntington Ave.
Boston, 02115
United States
+1 617.37.7331 (Phone)
+1 617.373.5056 (Fax)


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