From Sunshine to a Common Agent. The Evolving Understanding of Transparency in the WTO

17 Pages Posted: 25 Feb 2015 Last revised: 25 Apr 2015

See all articles by Petros C. Mavroidis

Petros C. Mavroidis

Columbia University - Law School; European University Institute - Department of Law (LAW); European University Institute - Robert Schuman Centre for Advanced Studies (RSCAS)

Robert Wolfe

Queen's University - School of Policy Studies

Date Written: February 1, 2015

Abstract

Transparency obligations have undergone substantial transformations since the inception of the GATT in 1947. The paper begins by tracing the evolution of transparency principles during the WTO era. From an obligation to publish general laws affecting trade, the system now includes peer review by governments (monitoring and surveillance), and efforts to inform the public. The system is remarkable for what has been accomplished, but much remains to be done. Originally designed for a handful of developed countries, the system now provides an expanded knowledge base that benefits states, economic actors and citizens with inadequate resources to acquire information on their own. Fulfilling this emerging objective will require a stronger role for the WTO Secretariat as a "common agent" for Members. Transparency in the WTO is based on an assumption that agency matters. The evolution of the system reflects an increasingly expansive view of whose agency counts for trade policy, and therefore of what kinds of information should be available, in what form, and what use ought to be made of it. Our expectation is that the continued evolution in the multilateral understanding of agency in trade policy will be reflected in growing sophistication of WTO transparency practices.

Keywords: Transparency, WTO

JEL Classification: K40

Suggested Citation

Mavroidis, Petros C. and Wolfe, Robert, From Sunshine to a Common Agent. The Evolving Understanding of Transparency in the WTO (February 1, 2015). Robert Schuman Centre for Advanced Studies Research Paper No. RSCAS PP 2015/01; Columbia Public Law Research Paper No. 14-461. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2569178 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2569178

Petros C. Mavroidis (Contact Author)

Columbia University - Law School ( email )

435 West 116th Street
New York, NY 10025
United States

European University Institute - Department of Law (LAW) ( email )

Via Bolognese 156 (Villa Salviati)
50-139 Firenze
ITALY

European University Institute - Robert Schuman Centre for Advanced Studies (RSCAS) ( email )

Villa La Fonte, via delle Fontanelle 18
50016 San Domenico di Fiesole
Florence, Florence 50014
Italy

Robert Wolfe

Queen's University - School of Policy Studies ( email )

Ontario K7L 3N6
Canada

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