Global Governance and the WTO

88 Pages Posted: 15 Aug 2002

Date Written: August 2002


The international trading system, embodied in the World Trade Organization (WTO), is rightly celebrated as one of the great successes of international cooperation. The success of that system, however, has not been matched in other important areas of international policymaking, including environmental, labor, human rights, and competition policy. In recent years, the trading system has come under stress because the impact of its success has been felt in these "non-trade" areas. The liberalization of trade and the establishment of multilateral trading rules, for example, have made it more difficult for nation-states to impose trade sanctions on states that fail to undertake certain environmental measures. Governments, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), and individuals concerned about the impact of the trading system on these non-trade issues have challenged the WTO to address this concern. As of yet no consensus has emerged on the question of how to balance existing trade interests against these other interests.

This Article proposes a strategy that would allow states to discuss trade and non-trade interests in a single forum. With a single place for the negotiation of a range of issues, states will be able to negotiate rules to govern the balance between trade and non-trade concerns. No such forum exists today.

The best starting point for this effort is the WTO. The WTO has the advantage of being an established and successful organization that has proven itself capable of managing complex negotiations and administering the resulting agreements. It also has the advantage of a well functioning dispute resolution system. The primary problem with the WTO as the single home for these diverse issues is the fact that it is a trade organization, staffed by trade specialists, and prone to favoring trade interests over others. If it is to be an effective and accepted forum for non-trade issues, this trade bias must be eliminated.

To overcome the trade bias of the institution, this Article advances a novel proposal to create autonomous, topical departments within the WTO. Each department would represent a single area, such as trade, environment, human rights, and so on. The departments would organize rounds of negotiation within their issue areas, leading to WTO obligations. In addition, to permit negotiation across issue areas, periodic "Mega-Rounds" would be convened in which trade concerns could be balanced against, for example, environmental concerns. The resulting agreements from the Mega-Rounds would also represent WTO obligations. The departmental structure would avoid the problems of a trade bias within the organization and retain the advantages of specialization. At the same time, the organization would have a mechanism to undertake the difficult but critical tasks of determining how trade and non-trade interests will interact.

Keywords: international law, compliance, international relations, WTO, global governance

JEL Classification: K33

Suggested Citation

Guzman, Andrew T., Global Governance and the WTO (August 2002). Available at SSRN: or

Andrew T. Guzman (Contact Author)

USC Gould School of Law ( email )

699 Exposition Boulevard
Los Angeles, CA 90089
United States

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