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The Role of the WTO Director-General and Secretariat

Gregory Shaffer

University of California, Irvine School of Law

World Trade Review, Vol. 4, No. 3, pp. 429-438, 2005

This essay addresses the role of the WTO Director-General and secretariat from a political economy perspective, examining the activities of the WTO Director-General and Secretariat in light of the divergent concerns of, and constraints placed by, the WTO=s different members, from the United States and European Community to smaller developing countries. Larger and wealthier WTO members feel that an enlarged secretariat will not serve their interests because it will be harder to oversee and control. There are indeed reasons that developing countries might favor a larger and more independent secretariat. Many of these countries lack internal trade law expertise and, since most of them are small and poor, there are greater opportunity costs for them to develop internal expertise in WTO matters in light of other demands. In the dispute settlement context, in particular, developing countries could benefit from greater assistance from the secretariat. Yet developing countries are also wary of a larger more proactive secretariat because of their concern about systemic (and perhaps unconscious) pressure on the secretariat to accommodate the interests of the WTO's most important trading members. The essay provides examples of these concerns. It concludes that, although there are reasons to favor enhancing an independent role for the WTO secretariat, at least incrementally, significant checks on such a development remain on account of the WTO's more politically sensitive policy coverage, its more prominent public profile, and ongoing challenges to the legitimacy of its decisions.

Number of Pages in PDF File: 12

Keywords: International Trade

JEL Classification: F1, K33

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Date posted: September 17, 2006  

Suggested Citation

Shaffer, Gregory, The Role of the WTO Director-General and Secretariat. World Trade Review, Vol. 4, No. 3, pp. 429-438, 2005. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=930493

Contact Information

Gregory C. Shaffer (Contact Author)
University of California, Irvine School of Law ( email )
401 E. Peltason Dr.
Ste. 1000
Irvine, CA 92612
United States
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