Private Standards and the WTO: Reclusive No More

27 Pages Posted: 1 Apr 2016

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: March 2016

Abstract

Private standards are increasing in number, and they affect trade, but their status in the WTO remains problematic. Standards-takers are typically countries with little bargaining power, who cannot affect their terms of trade and thus, even if they possess domestic antitrust laws, will find it hard to persuade standard-setters to take account of their interests. Our concern is to bring more of these standards within the normative framework of the trade regime — that is, we worry that these private forms of social order can conflict with the fundamental norms of transparency and non-discrimination. The WTO membership has consumed itself in endless discussions regarding mundane, legalistic issues, and has not moved at all towards addressing the real concerns of developing countries. We discuss one aspect of the problem: How reclusive should the WTO allow product standards to be? We argue that the WTO should adopt a “Reference Paper” that would encourage its members to apply WTO rules for adopting those standards that already come under the aegis of the WTO to private standards. In the absence of centralized enforcement, utopia in the WTO legal paradigm, transparency disciplines imposed on standard-setters is the best the WTO could offer to those who are negatively affected by private standards.

Keywords: WTO, private standards, TBT Agreement, transparency

JEL Classification: K40

Suggested Citation

Mavroidis, Petros C. and Wolfe, Robert, Private Standards and the WTO: Reclusive No More (March 2016). Robert Schuman Centre for Advanced Studies Research Paper No. RSCAS 2016/17. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2757567 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2757567

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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